Snow, bitter cold descend on the state in latest storm

HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania braced Thursday for a storm that was expected to dump up to 8 or 9 inches of snow in the Pocono Mountains and the northwestern part of the state, followed by a blast of dangerously frigid air that could send wind chills below zero.

Snow started falling before dawn Thursday morning in the Interstate 80 corridor in northern Pennsylvania, and school closings or early dismissals began to trickle in during the day.

By early Thursday evening, the state Transportation Department announced reduced speed limits to 45 mph on several major roadways in eastern and central Pennsylvania and urged drivers to avoid unnecessary travel.

The roads with reduced speeds included Interstate 78 in Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties, Interstate 80 in Carbon and Monroe counties, Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County, Interstate 176 in Berks County, Interstate 380 in Monroe County, US 22 in Lehigh and Northampton counties, and state Route 33 in Monroe and Northampton counties.

“You just have to slow down,” Mel Correll, of Brockport, told KDKA in Pittsburgh. “I was doing 10 miles an hour or less coming across (Interstate) 80.”

More than a dozen flight cancellations were reported at Pittsburgh International Airport on Thursday night, while the icy conditions were being blamed for multiple car accidents on major highways and local roads in the western part of the state.

Snowfall was expected to taper off Friday morning, and leave at least a few inches throughout much of the state, the National Weather Service said.

PennDOT said it was putting salt-spreading trucks on standby and has sprayed salt brine on major expressways and highways. But Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch warned that roads would not be free of ice and snow, even with crews working around the clock.

The weather service posted a winter storm warning for eastern Pennsylvania, where it said snowfall would be heaviest Thursday night before tapering off Friday morning. Forecasters said strong northerly winds will cause blowing and drifting snow and force temperatures into the single digits.

Three to 7 inches will fall in the Philadelphia area and 6 to 8 inches farther north, the weather service said. Western and central Pennsylvania could see 2 to 7 inches.