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PennDOT releases a chilly reminder

Officials of several state agencies say they are prepared for the upcoming winter season and they are also advising motorists to get ready for the inevitable arrival of cold and snow.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Leslie Richards, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) CEO Mark Compton, and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Randy Padfield held an event Thursday at PEMA to outline the commonwealth’s plans for winter services.

“Our number-one priority is safety, and that guides our winter preparations and operations,” Richards said. “We are ready for the season ahead and want the public to prepare and be aware of the tools available to them.”

The public can access travel information on nearly 40,000 miles of state-maintained roads year-round at 511PA.com. During the winter motorists can find plow-truck locations and details of when state-maintained roadways were last plowed.

“We started winter planning after the last season ended, and we encourage the public to not only take advantage of these travel tools, but also make sure they’re prepared as well,” Richards said. “Winter maintenance is a critical and difficult task, and motorists are partners in making this season a safe one.”

To help the public prepare for the season and share information about winter services, PennDOT offers operational information and traveler resources at penndot.gov/winter. The site also has a complete winter guide with detailed information about winter services in each of PennDOT’s 11 districts.

Approximately $223 million is budgeted for this winter’s statewide operations. PennDOT deploys about 4,500 on-the-road workers, has more than 620,000 tons of salt on hand across the state and will take salt deliveries throughout the winter.

With the multitude of winter work to be done comes the chance for temporary employment.

PennDOT is actively seeking more than 500 temporary equipment operators statewide for the winter season to supplement the department’s full-time staff. Details on minimum requirements, such as possession of a CDL, as well as application information are available at employment.pa.gov. Through the same website, job seekers can apply for other types of non-operator, winter positions such as diesel and construction equipment mechanics, welders, clerks and more.

In addition to being weather-aware, winter motorists need to exercise patience and caution in order to get to their destination.

If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 440 crashes resulting in one fatality and 221 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.

“We know that winter weather can hit hard and fast in Pennsylvania,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “But if we know it’s coming, we can prepare for it, and we all have a role to play in making sure our loved ones are ready for winter driving.”

Padfield said it’s also important to know the difference between a weather watch and warning. A watch means there is increased risk of a hazardous weather event, but its occurrence, location, or timing is still uncertain. A warning means the weather event is imminent or is happening.

In addition, snow squalls can often produce dangerous and deadly travel hazards on otherwise clear winter days. The National Weather Service now issues “Snow Squall Warnings” which alert drivers of whiteout conditions and slippery roadways, so motorists can avoid traveling directly into these dangerous squalls.

Motorists should prepare for potential bad weather by ensuring they have supplies in their cars before heading out: food; water; blankets; extra gloves and hats; cell phone charger; hand or foot warmers; windshield brush and scraper; and any specialized items like medications or baby and pet supplies.

Motorists can check conditions by visiting 511PA.com, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 950 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available through a free smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

For more information on PennDOT’s winter preparations and additional winter-driving resources for motorists, visit the department’s winter website, PennDOT.gov/winter.

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