Governor Wolf Gives Winter Storm Update, Strongly Urges Public Not To Travel
January 23, 2016
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and state transportation and emergency management officials today again strongly urged the public not to travel to allow road crews to continue their efforts to clear snow from state and local roadways.
For photos and video of this press conference, click here.
“My top priority is the safety of the people of Pennsylvania,” said Governor Wolf. “In order to avoid accidents and further congestion, we are strongly urging all citizens to avoid road travel at this time,” said Governor Wolf. “Many Pennsylvanians have made the wise choice to stay home, and we appreciate their cooperation. ”
While the heaviest snow will let up after dark, Governor Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) advised that hazardous conditions will persist through the overnight hours. High winds will likely push snow back onto roadways that have already been cleared and treated by road crews.
Governor Wolf also provided an update from the Pennsylvania State Police on the backlog of vehicles, including tractor trailers, buses and cars on I-76 in Somerset and Bedford counties. At this time, state and local first responders are providing food and water to the stranded motorists while crews attempt to remove all disabled vehicles as soon as possible.
“This is an active emergency response that we are monitoring around the clock,” said Governor Wolf. “We are deploying every available resource to make sure they are checked on regularly as public safety officials work to resolve the situation.”
PennDOT has now lifted the speed restrictions put into place earlier today on Interstate 70 in Washington, Westmoreland, Bedford and Fulton counties and Interstate 79 in Greene, Washington, Allegheny and Beaver counties.
I-76 Response and Driver Checks
Earlier today, as westbound tractor-trailers became unable to climb a hill toward the Allegheny tunnels, traffic backed up behind them. As progress was made to clear the initial stranded trucks, other trucks also became unable to go up the hill. This caused a backlog for vehicles. Due to the backlog, emergency crews were unable to get heavy–duty tow trucks to the scene to clear the disabled trucks. The backlog also prevents Turnpike road crews from being able to clear the snow for motorists.
Plan X was instituted by PSP and the Turnpike overnight to start turning people around, and having cars exit turnpike in opposite direction. Plan X is the method by which the Turnpike Commission, in emergency situations such as multiple vehicle accidents, closes certain sections of the Turnpike and reroutes traffic around the affected sections.
When the backlog was reported, PEMA contacted Somerset/Bedford emergency management to add extra resources for driver checks by first responders on ATVs. There are five fire departments, including Shanksville, Berlin, Shawnee Valley, New Baltimore, and Somerset, and Pennsylvania State Police personnel performing driver checks. Every car has been checked multiple times. At this time, state and local first responders are proving food and water to the stranded motorists while crews attempt to remove all disabled vehicles as soon as possible.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is refueling cars that are low on fuel so they can keep heat running in their cars. There is a warming shelter at the Bedford exit, with additional EMS on standby there. The Pennsylvania National Guard, as a second responder, has been deployed with shovels, MREs, water and chains to assist with driver checks and stuck cars.
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