Winter storm dumps more snow, ice on Juniata Valley Wednesday

LEWISTOWN – Winter storm Nika came through the area early Wednesday morning, bringing with it a wintry mixture of snow, sleet and ice. This was the second of two storms that have plagued the area this week. Snow also fell Monday.

The National Weather Service in State College reported a total of four inches of the mixture fell in the Lewistown area Wednesday.

This storm brought hazardous morning commutes in the Juniata Valley.

Schools were closed again Wednesday, after being closed on Monday and delayed on Tuesday when school officials were afraid of the wet roads freezing over night. These school closings are causing problems with scholastic sports scheduling, with several events being rescheduled multiple times as athletic directors try to beat district qualification deadlines.

Many government agencies also were closed Wednesday due to the severity of the storm. Both the Mifflin and Juniata counties’ courthouses were closed.

More winter weather is predicted for the weekend. Currently, the National Weather Service is forecasting snow fall most of Sunday, but some forecasts say the snow will start late Saturday night.

Statewide, about 750,000 customers were without power, Gov. Tom Corbett said in a midday briefing in the headquarters of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency outside Harrisburg.

“People are going to have to have some patience at this point,” Corbett said, warning that an overnight refreeze could cause more problems on the roads Thursday.

PECO, which was working to restore power to more than 500,000 customers Wednesday afternoon, warned that it could take until the weekend for some people get their electricity back.

The storm piled up to a foot of new powder along the state’s northern tier and coated the southeastern quadrant with a layer of ice that gave trees a picturesque, frosty sheen but brought down limbs and trees from Gettysburg to Philadelphia.

Long stretches of the Pennsylvania Turnpike were under speed and trailer restrictions all morning, but those rules were lifted as the weather warmed and some melting began. A crash had also shut down the interstate for outside Harrisburg for several hours, and turnpike officials also warned motorists to beware of fallen trees in eastern Pennsylvania.

Amtrak suspended its Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg service because of downed trees on wires and along tracks, with no estimate of when it would be restored. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Administration reported delays and some cancellations on its suburban routes and urged transit riders to use caution and delay commutes if possible until conditions improved.

Customers at Weist Hardware in New Cumberland, across the river from Harrisburg, made a run on metal shovels, snow scrapers and the store’s supply of 10-pound bags of ice melt.

“We had a whole mountain high in the back, and that went in the last two days,” said store owner Audrey Weist.

In Hamburg, the storm deposited a quick couple inches of snow and sleet, followed by a cold, persistent rain that coated tree branches, parked cars and other untreated surfaces in a layer of ice while turning roads slushy and slick.

John Balthaser gunned his pickup as he plowed the parking lot of an RV dealership, trying to pick up a head of steam to push mounds of very heavy slush into a bank.

“It just wants to push your truck all over,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to push as the rain comes on.”

Reading cafe owner Mark Hazer made a pit stop to get gas and characterized his commute to work this way: “It was wet, icy and dangerous.”

“I’d rather be home sleeping,” Hazer said with a laugh, but “I gotta go to work, that’s the thing.”

Philadelphia International Airport reported 139 cancelled flights early Wednesday but planned normal operations with all four runways open.

Having lost power and with no heat in its dormitories, Villanova University shut down at least through Thursday and urged students to make arrangements to go home.

Pittsburgh and surrounding areas were dealing with about three inches of snow, topped by ice created by freezing rains that began falling before dawn. Most roads were plowed and passable, though black ice was a consideration in spots.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.