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Gov. Wolf declares state of emergency ahead of winter storm; restrictions in place on interstates, turnpike

Posted 1/18/19

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a state of emergency declaration Friday to allow for increased assistance with storm-related needs.

Speed restrictions and a ban on all commercial traffic, …

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Gov. Wolf declares state of emergency ahead of winter storm; restrictions in place on interstates, turnpike

Posted

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a state of emergency declaration Friday to allow for increased assistance with storm-related needs.

Speed restrictions and a ban on all commercial traffic, including buses, will be in place from noon Saturday to noon Sunday on most interstates and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, except for Interstate 95 in southeastern Pennsylvania. The ban will also be imposed on the U.S. 22 expressway in the Lehigh Valley and the Pennsylvania Route 33 expressway in Northampton and Monroe counties.

“We want to be aggressive in managing this storm, during which snowfall rates could exceed 1 to 2 inches per hour,” Wolf said. “Our top concern is the safety of residents. If you do not have to travel during the storm, please avoid it. Please heed warnings from emergency responders and personnel, and remember to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly.”

The declaration of an emergency allows for additional help from neighboring states and standing up the Pennsylvania National Guard to ensure a swift response to possible changing priorities, and the vehicle bans will allow snow plow crews to have a clearer route.

The governor’s emergency declaration authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel, as necessary, to cope with the magnitude and severity of the storm’s impacts. Bid and contract procedures, as well as other formalities normally prescribed by law, are waived for the duration of the proclamation.

The declaration does not restrict citizens from travel on roads.

Speed limits will be restricted to 45 mph on the interstates and expressways as the storm progresses. The Pennsylvania Department Transportation, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania State Police have been coordinating their planning in advance of the storm and will be staffing the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center throughout the storm.

Amtrak has canceled the cross-state Pennsylvanian passenger train for Sunday and has cancelled six trains Sunday on the Keystone Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

A vehicle emergency kit should be prepared or restocked with items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cellphone charger and a small snow shovel.

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.