Governor Wolf Urges Residents to Be Safe, State Preparing for Worst that Winter Storm Delivers

March 07, 2018

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf was joined this morning by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Richard D. Flinn, Jr., and state officials from PennDOT, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania National Guard, the PA Turnpike, and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) at PEMA to provide a media briefing and update on the winter storm currently affecting the eastern third of the state.

“While we know that the storm has shifted east, it will still have a significant impact on the eastern third of the state and conditions can change quickly,” Governor Wolf said. “We are doing everything we can to prepare and respond, and are focused on continuing to get power restored, roads open and communities back to normal from last weekend’s storm while preparing for today’s weather event.”

Last week’s storm produced a peak of 600,000 power outages, now reduced to just under 40,000, per the PUC. Work restrictions were waived on Saturday to allow utility companies to work to restore power more quickly.

The following updates were provided at the briefing:

“PEMA will continue to closely coordinate with state agencies to provide support to county emergency management officials for as long as it’s needed,” said PEMA Director Richard D. Flinn Jr. “I am extremely grateful for the support of Governor Wolf and our state agency partners, who have stepped up to serve their fellow citizens during these snowstorms over the last few days.”

Beginning at midnight Tuesday, PennDOT imposed a ban on empty straight CDL-weighted trucks, large combination vehicles (double trailers), tractors hauling empty trailers, trailers pulled by passenger vehicles, motorcycles and recreational vehicles, or RVs, on:

Interstate 78 from the junction with Interstate 81 in Lebanon County to the New Jersey line.

  • I-80 from the junction with Interstate 81 to the New Jersey line.
  • I-81 from the Maryland line to the New York State line.
  • I-84 from the junction with Interstate 81 to the New York State line.
  • I-380 from the junction with Interstate 80 to the junction with Interstate 81.

At 8 a.m. today, all commercial vehicles were banned on I-380 and I-84 within Pennsylvania. A commercial vehicle is defined as a vehicle used for commerce and meets one of the following conditions:

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 17,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater.
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
  • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation.
  • Is a school bus.
  • Is transporting hazardous materials which is required to be placarded in accordance with Department regulations.

Restrictions will remain in place as long as warranted through the storm.

Speed restrictions of 45 mph were imposed on 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; US 209 in Monroe County; US 222 in Berks County; US 422 in Berks County; PA 33 in Northampton and Monroe counties; PA 309 in Lehigh County; and all major expressways in the five-county Philadelphia area.

Given the long hours local PennDOT staff incurred over the weekend, PennDOT supplemented local staff in northeastern Pennsylvania with resources from western Pennsylvania. PennDOT moved five plow trucks and two graders along with 18 employees into Pike County to address any issues on Interstate 84, as well as 20 plow trucks and two graders along with 46 employees to address any issues on Interstates 80, 380 and Route 33 Monroe County and the Lehigh Valley.

Also, two heavy duty tow trucks are being positioned along Interstate 84 in Pike County and one heavy duty tow truck in each of Luzerne and Lackawanna counties to deal with any issues on Interstates 80 and 81.

If traveling during severe winter weather cannot be avoided, motorists should make sure their gas tank is full and they pack an emergency kit, which should include non-perishable food, water, blanket, small shovel and warm clothes. Remember also any special needs, such as baby food, pet supplies or medications.

When queues form and roadways are expected to be closed for long periods because of crashes and other traffic disruptions, PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency can activate the 511PAConnect system to establish contact via cellphone to trapped motorists.

Motorists are reminded that roadways will not be free of snow while precipitation is falling. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may be icy, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning. Motorists should leave plenty of space – six car lengths — when following a truck that is plowing or spreading winter materials. Also, reduced speeds are a must when traveling during snow events.

Pennsylvania State Police reported a brief closure this morning in Armstrong County. PA 28/66 was closed in both directions after tractor trailers became stuck in the snow. Both directions of travel are now open.

State Police Troopers will enforce travel restrictions enacted by PennDOT. These restrictions are in place for the safety of drivers, passengers, and first responders and violating the restrictions could lead to a ticket of $300 plus court costs. Utility crews directly involved in the restoration of power are exempt from the restrictions.

PA Turnpike
Beginning at midnight Tuesday, the PA Turnpike imposed a ban on empty straight CDL-weighted trucks, large combination vehicles (double trailers), tractors hauling empty trailers, trailers pulled by passenger vehicles, motorcycles and recreational vehicles, or RVs on the east-west mainline from Harrisburg East exit to New Jersey and on the entire Northeastern Extension.

The PA Turnpike has lowered the speed limit to 45 mph on the east-west mainline (I-76/276) from the Morgantown Exit (No. 298) east to the NJ line and on the entire Northeastern Extension (I-476) from Mid County (No. 20) to Clarks Summit (No. 131).

Pennsylvania National Guard
There are approximately 465 national guard members mobilized and on standby throughout the state. Nine counties have National Guard members mobilized in the field, including Lehigh, Delaware, Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Northampton, Wayne, Pike and Lackawanna.

While Governor Wolf and state officials recommend not traveling during winter storms, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 850 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.

“I ask residents to be patient, to be safe and to be helpful to their neighbors,” Governor Wolf said. “Please heed warnings from emergency officials and law enforcement, limit your travel and allow emergency responders to do their work. Staying off the roads helps keep you and others safe and allows crews to clear and treat roadways without disruption.

“We know this has been a difficult week for many citizens in affected areas and for our first responders, emergency managers, transportation and utility workers, and state and local officials.

“I want to thank those people who have worked around the clock – many in difficult conditions of extreme cold and wind – to help their neighbors and keep people safe.”

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