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Winter storm wreaks havoc on county travelers

December 26, 2012

Brendan Couser of Pine Street is pictured clearing the sidewalks on Pine Street at his home and for his neighbors during Tuesday's big winter storm. His son Austin Couser is shown in the background also clearing snow. (Photo by Larry McGuire of The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — If you are a fan of a "White Christmas," then you should be happy with the pretty flakes that fell Christmas Eve throughout the area, but very few people wish for a white day after Christmas.

"We had over seven inches of snow on the ground in Punxsutawney Borough as of 5:30 p.m. today (Wednesday)," said Charlie Hoeh, Punxsutawney Borough Emergency Management coordinator.

Hoeh said the forecast called for another three to four inches throughout the night.

"We were pretty fortunate that motorists were careful while navigating through state and borough streets," he said.

Hoeh said the closest thing to an accident due to the heavy snowfall was on McCracken hill near Cloe, where a tractor trailer was stuck and couldn't make it up the steep grade, causing traffic congestion for a short 
while.

"Another tractor trailer was stuck on Route 119 in Young Township near the Park-N-Ride but was able to get traction and move on.

Bruce Baughman, Oliver Township fire chief, said he had two tractor trailers stuck on the hill above Coolspring — one on the north side and another on the south side.

"Rebuck's South Side Service was just traveling through the area at that time and helped get the trucks up those slippery slopes," Baughman said, adding that they were lucky that firefighters were able to get the trucks up the hills and open up Route 36 to traffic within a short period of time.

Hoeh said that Pine Creek Township, Brookville, Knox Dale, Warsaw Township, Summerville and Sigel all experienced difficulties with tractor trailers that were stuck — or worse, jackknifed — especially on Interstate 80 where portions of the road were closed in Jefferson County at one time or another.

"Punxsutawney Borough Public Works were out during the day putting down anti-skid and later plowing the borough's streets following the first wave of snow that blew through the area," Hoeh said.

During the height of the storm, PennDOT had temporarily reduced the speed limit on several roadways in the region to 45 mph — including Interstates 78, 80 and 81.

According to PennDOT, "Although PennDOT has crews treating roadways around the clock, the department’s primary goal is to keep roads passable, not completely free of ice and snow. PennDOT will continue to treat roadways throughout the storm until precipitation stops and roads are clear."

"Although PennDOT recommends not traveling during winter storms, motorists can check road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of state roads by calling 5-1-1 or visiting www.511PA.com."

511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, average traffic speeds on urban interstates and access to more than 670 traffic cameras.

PennDOT said the 511 site also provides easy-to-use, color-coded winter road conditions for all interstates and other routes covered in the 511 reporting network.

Regional Twitter alerts are also available on the 511PA website, PennDOT said.

"The department also asks motorists to allow plenty of space when driving near plow trucks," PennDOT said, adding that for their own safety and the safety of plow operators, motorists should never attempt to pass a truck while it is plowing or spreading winter materials.

PennDOT reminds motorists to pack an emergency kit for their vehicles:

• A basic kit should include non-perishable food, water, blanket, small shovel and warm clothes.

• When preparing an emergency kit, motorists should take into account special needs of passengers such as baby food, pet supplies or medications and pack accordingly.

For more winter driving tips and information on how PennDOT treats winter storms, visit www.dot.state.pa.us/winter.

Follow PennDOT on Twitter at www.twitter.com/511PAStatewide.

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