New Castle News

December 27, 2012

Snow blankets county, clogs highways

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A storm blowing in from the Midwest piled snow over Lawrence County Wednesday.

The storm system resulted in rare Christmas tornadoes in the South, knocking down trees and blowing roofs off houses. The winds were followed by torrential rains and flash flooding. Tens of thousands lost power according to the Associated Press.

Locally, results weren’t quite so dramatic. But motorists encountered hazardous conditions, with some involved in accidents and many more stuck as traffic backed up because of collisions or vehicle that could not ascend slick hills.

Meteorologist Rehan Gangat of the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh forecast 8 to 10 inches of snow through this morning, with temperatures in the 20s. He also predicts a cold weekend, with temperatures dipping into the teens overnight.

Snow is expected to subside Thursday, he said, but “there is a good chance” it will resume over the weekend with little or no additional accumulation.

Mike Rooney, New Castle public works director, said he and his crew are trying to keep up.

“I understand the frustration, but we’re doing as much as we can while the snow is still coming down,” he said Wednesday.

Rooney said he had been contacted Wednesday morning by a caller complaining about conditions.

“She asked why we weren’t more prepared for the storm,” he said. “I have six, 10-ton trucks and a pick-up and must take care of the whole city. People should understand that we’re doing as much as we can to keep up while the snow is falling. I don’t understand why people feel that they have to get out” in bad weather.

Rooney said he will continue his practice of concentrating on the city’s hills to make them passable, and the main streets, getting to the side streets as he can.

Fred Garrett, New Wilmington borough superintendent, called Wednesday “a good day to stay at home,” adding he was “keeping up” with the season’s first major snowfall.

This is the first snow for which the borough officially called out its trucks.

“Up until now, we’ve just dealt with skiffs,” he said, noting, “Friday night to Saturday morning we were out because the roads and walks were slippery.”

He said he is responsible for eight miles of road. Some local roads have hills, he noted, but the major hills are state highways.

“The state has been excellent at keeping up with the snow.”

That was seconded by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Cowan.

“The Lawrence County highway maintenance manager said we’re in fine shape,” Cowan said Wednesday afternoon. “He said the roads were salted and plowed and in good shape.”

Snow in Lawrence County, which began falling about 10 a.m. Wednesday, hit dry pavement. “In Allegheny County, things were much worse. They got sleet prior to the heavy snow,” Cowan said. “It was a real mess.”

During Wednesday’s storm, the Pennsylvania Turnpike imposed a 45 mph speed limit on about 300 miles of highway.

Also, double tractor-trailer rigs and empty rigs were being banned from the New Stanton to Breezewood exits.

FirstEnergy reported it was prepared to handle outages expected by high winds throughout much of its service area. But only a handful of homes lost power in Lawrence County Wednesday.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)