Governor Wolf: Pennsylvanians Urged to Limit Travel, Prepare for Complex, Fast-moving Winter Storm
February 19, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – With a fast-moving, complex winter storm expected to bring snow, sleet and freezing rain across the state tomorrow, Governor Tom Wolf urged Pennsylvanians to limit travel and pay attention to what may be rapidly changing weather conditions.
“This storm could bring with it a travel mess and so I encourage everyone who can stay off the roads to do so tomorrow,” Gov. Wolf said. “Be sure to check your local weather and road conditions and heed the advice of local emergency responders and personnel, and, as always, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly.”
Snow is forecasted to arrive Wednesday morning moving northeast across the state and transitioning to an icy mix of snow and sleet, turning to rain in the afternoon. Most of the state could see from 2 to 8 inches of snow, with the highest accumulations south of I-80, followed by potentially icy conditions before the storm moves out of the state Wednesday night.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) is closely monitoring the weather and is in contact with county emergency officials to ensure all needs are being met.
“Conditions with this storm could change quickly, so we’ll be working closely with our county partners to anticipate any resources they might need from the state,” said PEMA Acting Director Randy Padfield.
PennDOT and the PA Turnpike have issued a commercial vehicle ban and phased restrictions on certain roadways through the storm, beginning at 6 a.m. tomorrow. See the latest map of bans and restriction here.
To help make decisions regarding winter travel, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 860 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.
511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
A vehicle emergency kit should be prepared or restocked with items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. Motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families have such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies.
Motorists should be aware that all vehicles should be fully clear of ice and snow before winter travel. If snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of that vehicle could receive a $200 to $1,000 fine.
When winter weather occurs, PennDOT urges drivers to be extra cautious around operating snow-removal equipment. When encountering a plow truck, drivers should:
- Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow truck and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.
- Be alert since plow trucks generally travel much more slowly than other traffic.
- When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible, and remember that snow can obscure the actual snow plow width.
- Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a “plow train.” The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for nearby vehicles.
- Never travel next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can’t see, and they can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.
- Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Also remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle’s wipers are on due to inclement weather.
In addition to driving safely around plows, motorists are urged to drive according to conditions. If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 440 crashes resulting in 221 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.
To report an accident or other emergencies on the PA Turnpike, dial *11 on your mobile phone. If there is an accident, move the car out of travel lane and onto shoulder, if possible, and stay in the vehicle. For more information about PA Turnpike conditions, follow the conversation by using www.paturnpike.com/travel/twitter. You may also see advisories by clicking on the travel ticker on www.PATurnpike.com.
Gov. Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians that the state of emergency declaration he signed in January remains in effect to allow for increased assistance with storm-related needs. He also asked drivers to observe any vehicle bans, which will allow snow plow crews to have a clearer route to keeping these interstates open despite the expected severe weather.
It is important to note that the declaration does not restrict citizens from travel on commonwealth roadways, but motorists should be aware of any restrictions that are in place and heed the guidance of local authorities.
PennDOT has created a Winter Safety media center, including social-media-sized graphics highlighting winter driving preparations and operations at www.penndot.gov in the “Media Center” under the “About Us” footer.
For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit PennDOT.gov/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at PennDOT.gov/safety.
“Pennsylvania state agencies are ready for this winter storm,” Gov. Wolf said. “I now ask all Pennsylvanians to get ready, stay safe, stay off the roads if you can, and take care of each other. This is an especially good time to be a good neighbor.”