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Playing, digging, coping in a Winter Wonderland

Pa., W.Va. residents dig out from big winter storm

Pa., W.Va. residents dig out from big winter storm

December 20, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

TRI-STATE -- Residents in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and southcentral Pennsylvania dug themselves out of more than a foot of snow Sunday. And winter doesn't even officially start until today.

Adults were seen shoveling sidewalks and clearing vehicles throughout the day, as children grabbed sleds and snowboards. A record-setting snowstorm that started Friday night wrapped up by 10:30 p.m. Saturday, leaving vast swaths of snow behind.

Reports from area weather watchers placed accumulations anywhere from 7.5 inches in Greene Township, Pa., to 20 inches in Martinsburg, W.Va.

In West Virginia, Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties' schools are closed today. Chambersburg Area School District, Waynesboro Area, Tuscarora School District and Greencastle-Antrim School District officials in Franklin County, Pa., all announced a two-hour delay for today.

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West Virginia State Police reported that they responded to 18 weather-related accidents in Berkeley County from Friday night to Sunday morning. Seven of them were on Interstate 81, including one in which a tractor-trailer overturned near exit 20.

Driver Billy Smith, 51, of Oklahoma, reportedly told police he tried to slow down for traffic and lost control of the rig, according to a news release. Police said Smith was not injured, but the northbound lanes of the highway were closed for 2 1/2 hours.

Dispatchers from 911 centers in Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania said weather-related calls were minimal on Sunday.

Weather watcher Jerry Ashway said he recorded 7.5 inches at his Greene Township home, but he saw accumulations of a foot elsewhere in Chambersburg. Greencastle, Pa., weather watcher Robert Wertime said he lost his footing several times in the shifting snow as he recorded accumulations of 13.5 inches.

Wertime said he hurried Friday night to gather leaves and otherwise prepare his property for the snow.

"I finished working at 9:10 (p.m.), and it was chilling to the bone," he said.

Kris Feldmeyer from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's office in Franklin County said he put 500 miles on his truck in two days as he checked road conditions. PennDOT and six of its contractors had up to 40 snowplows on the road at points.

"Our last guys are coming in right now," Feldmeyer said at 6:40 p.m. Sunday, noting they had started at 11 p.m. Friday. Snowplow operators worked up to 14 hours and supervisors up to 20 hours in shifts, he said.

Crews planned to return to the roads at 2 a.m. today to combat any drifting or black ice before the morning commute, he said.

"The best thing that happened today is the sun came out," Feldmeyer said Sunday.

Washington Township (Pa.) Manager Mike Christopher said drifting and refreezing was causing slick spots on north-south roads.

"People on those roads need to be very, very careful," he said.

All township equipment was out to clear 85 miles of roads, Christopher said.

PennDOT ran drills before winter to ensure as many crews as needed could deploy to Interstate 81 first, Feldmeyer said. Roads like Pa. 997, Pa. 16, Pa. 75 and U.S. 30 are the next priorities, he said.

Each truck has its own route, which covers 35 to 40 miles in two hours, according to Feldmeyer. PennDOT plows 1,395 "snow-lane miles" in Franklin County, referring to the number and length of through lanes that need to be cleared.

The National Weather Service's forecast mentions a 20 percent chance of snow showers today in Franklin County. Precipitation is not predicted again until Thursday, when snow, freezing rain and sleet are included in forecasts across the Tri-State.

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