Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Battles Continue

Pennsylvania Turnpike officials have implemented a “winter-weather ban” for the entire Turnpike system. The following vehicles will be prohibited from driving on the Turnpike:
• Class-9 vehicles (overweight and over-dimensional trucks)
• Large Combination Vehicles (tandem trailers and doubles)
• Motorcycles
• Recreational vehicles
• Tractors hauling empty trailers
• Trailers pulled by passenger vehicles (cars, pick-ups, SUVs and vans)
The speed limit has also been lowered to 45 MPH

The Turnpike has called in extra tollbooth operators to notify motorists of the ban before they enter the turnpike. It is unclear when the ban will be lifted but Turnpike spokesperson Carl Defebo says anyone planning to use the turnpike should first hit the Turnpike website or the travel advisory hotline, 1-866-976-8747, to check conditions before you leave. When they get close to the turnpike entrance you can listen to the Highway Advisory Radio station 1640AM. PennDOT has put a similar ban in place for the highways in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The speed limit on all interstates in Pennsylvania is now 45 mph.

Defebo says crews are working to keep the highway clear but the snow is falling very fast in some areas. He says “snowplow trains” are making passes but when they finish their 25 mile run the snow has already built up on the road and another pass is needed. Defebo says, “In some instances it is not safe to travel at 45 miles per hour.” He asks that you not pass a snowplow train if you approach one from behind.

Defebo says the turnpike was able to replenish its salt stores in the lull between the two storms. He says they also have the ability to shuffle salt among more than 20 salt sheds and the authority is moving salt from areas less hard hit to those that need the extra salt.

With blizzard conditions causing impassible road conditions, Governor Ed Rendell has ordered the closing of Interstates 83, 78, and part of Interstate 81 and is expecting to close additional roads as conditions deteriorate. Interstate 81 is closed from the Maryland line to Interstate 80.
With hazardous weather conditions in much of the state, the Governor said it is too dangerous for any motorist to be driving.

“For your safety, do not drive,” Governor Rendell said. “You will risk your life and, potentially, the lives of others if you get stuck on highways or any road."

Allegheny County Public Works Director Joe Olczak says their primary goal is keeping main roads passable today. Since midnight, he says they’ve salted all of those roads at least two or three times, with 52 salt trucks on the roads. He’s not sure about much salt remains in supply for Public Works, but they placed an order for more on Monday.

Duquesne Light still has 2,000 customers without power. The company has pushed back estimates for having every one back on line and now Projects that customers in the North Hills and eastern Allegheny County will be restored by tonight. Customers in the city of Pittsburgh and the South Hills should see restoration by Thursday night. Western Allegheny county and Beaver county should be restored by Friday night. Allegheny Power still has 2,700 customers in Allegheny County without power; about 4,000 in Fayette County; nearly 7,000 in Greene County; 2,100 in Westmoreland County; and, 13,000 in Washington County.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County says nearly all of its routes are operating this afternoon but some are holding to the main roads or are taking other detours. PAT spokesperson Jim Ritchie says riders should get to those primary streets to catch a bus. However, buses are running 30-45 minutes behind. The “T” continues to run with the exception of the 52 Allentown line.

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