Municipalities prepare for snowstorm

Frank Andruscavage, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
·4 min read

Feb. 17—Schuylkill County residents heading to work Thursday morning will face the early stages of yet another major winter storm, with the weather and driving conditions expected to worsen throughout the day.

A National Weather Service forecast of 7-8 inches means the seasonal snow total that is already above average will grow even higher.

But several local road crews report there's no shortage of materials to treat roads.

Rachel Gutierrez, a meteorologist with the NWS Forecast Office in State College, said the storm was expected to arrive in Schuylkill County during the early morning hours, with accumulating snow hitting the area around daybreak.

"It will get steadier around daybreak and continue throughout the day into Friday afternoon," she said.

Gutierrez said Schuylkill County should see between 7 and 8 inches, with a foot of snow possible in parts of the county.

Although sleet and a wintry mix were originally forecast, the latest models on Wednesday were predicting mostly snow.

"This will be mainly a snow event, but there could be a slight time of sleet or a wintry mix," she said.

Gutierrez said that from Dec. 1 through Tuesday, Schuylkill County has received 30 inches of snow, slightly above the normal of 27.6 inches.

The snow totals are substantially higher than the 2019-20 winter season, when the county had 6.7 inches during the same time frame.

"There definitely is a big difference from last season," she said. NWS classifies the winter snow season as December through February.

Labor and materials

Thomas Whitaker, superintendent for the Pottsville Street Department, said although Pottsville and Schuylkill County have been pounded with repeated storms in recent weeks, his department is ready for this latest round.

"Right now we're fully stocked with salt and anti-skid material," he said.

Helping out was an ice storm forecast for earlier this week that did not fully materialize in the city and other lower elevations of the county.

The frequency of storms, meanwhile, is taxing road crews.

"This will be the third major storm of the season, with plenty of smaller snowfalls in between," Whitaker said. "It's hard to catch up."

He said Pottsville crews will be out during the overnight hours should the weather take a turn for the worse, but then not come in to work at normal times Thursday morning.

"We will start once the roads get bad," he said. "Maybe we'll have a chance to rest longer because we'll probably be going to be out until Friday."

Maintenance suffers in stretches such as these, Whitaker said.

"We work on the trucks, get loaded up and come back out to plow and salt the streets," he said. "We can't do normal maintenance as well as snow removal."

'No where to go'

Finding space to dump show is another problem.

"We have two or three locations in the city to dump the snow, but after this storm we may have no where to go," Whitaker said.

The city has declared a level 2 snow emergency for 24 hours beginning at 6 a.m. today. It means all vehicles are to be removed from snow emergency routes and fire lanes.

Hamburg Police Chief Anthony Kuklinski announced that beginning at 6 a.m. today a snow emergency will be in effect until further notice.

He said announcements will be broadcast and officers will also be making physical announcements in neighbors about parking restrictions and related matters.

The chief said violators of the parking bans will receive tickets and risk their vehicles being towed. He also said that for the duration of the snow emergency Hamburg borough and park parking restrictions will be lifted.

Ron Young, media spokesperson for PennDOT's District 5 in Allentown, said state crews are also ready for the storm, and there is no lack of supplies.

He said for District 5 PennDOT which covers Schuylkill and five other counties, PennDOT has 53,000 tons of salt on hand.

"We replenish as we go, so we're in good shape," Young said.

Improvement ahead?

In Pine Grove Township, road crew member Brian Huber said supplies are well stocked and plow trucks are ready to go.

"We're in good shape; we allot a fair amount each year and it holds us over," Huber said about supplies.

He said the predicted inch count will not cause a problem.

"This will be a welcome change from the last storm and the 20 inches," he said.

Huber said there is apparently light at the end of the tunnel. Forecasts he has seen indicate milder temperatures next week, nearing the 40s.

"They are also saying it will be less stormy," he said. "We hope they're right."