Storm hits area with snow, wind

March 1, 2009 7:57:20 PM PST
Eastern Pennsylvania residents and transportation officials were getting ready Sunday to be walloped by a nor'easter expected to bring blustery winds and up to a foot of snow. The city of Philadelphia declared a snow emergency as National Weather Service forecasters said the storm moving up the East Coast could dump 8 to 12 inches of snow in the region beginning Sunday evening and continuing into Monday. City officials warned that cars parked on streets designated snow emergency routes would be towed.

"We are urging residents to stay off the streets during the snowfall, if at all possible," Clarena I.W. Tolson, commissioner of the city's Streets Department, said in a statement. "The less traffic on city streets, the more effective our plow efforts will be."

The School District of Philadelphia announced that all public schools in the city would be closed Monday and all after-school activities canceled.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation planned to have all available equipment out working on the roads in the five-county Philadelphia region, assistant press secretary Gene Blaum said. The 400 trucks would have at their disposal about 77,000 tons of salt stockpiled, he said.

The weather service warned of increasing winds that could mean blowing and drifting snow reducing visibility to below a quarter-mile at times, and Blaum said PennDOT officials were particularly worried about that possibility.

"If it's a dry snow, snow could be blowing back onto the roadways after we plow it ... and you could have drifts forming," Blaum said. "Drivers are going need to exercise extra care when traveling during the duration of this storm."

Catherine Rossi of AAA Mid-Atlantic Inc. said motorists should postpone trips if possible, increase distance between vehicles, brake and accelerate slowly and use caution over bridges.

The city also declared a Code Blue weather emergency, which gives officials the power to go out onto the streets and bring in homeless people to shelters because the weather conditions pose a threat of serious harm or death.

Meteorologists were predicting 4 to 7 inches in Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon and Monroe counties.

In central Pennsylvania, the storm was expected to drop 5 to 8 inches in York and Lancaster counties by noon Monday, with increased amounts possible at higher elevations. Dauphin, Adams, Schuylkill and Lebanon counties could see 3 to 7 inches.

In all cases, the snow was expected to begin Sunday evening, falling heavily through the night and into Monday morning, then tapering to snow showers on Monday afternoon.

Massive winter storm dropping snow in NJ

A massive storm system with the potential to drop up to a foot of snow in some areas reached New Jersey on Sunday night, just hours after Gov. Jon S. Corzine said the state was prepared for what could be a costly weather event.

Snow began falling early Sunday night in most areas, but no major traffic problems were reported. By 10:30 p.m., nearly 3 inches of snow was reported in the southern Jersey towns of Cape May Court House and Vineland, while about 2 inches had fallen in Manchester Township in central Jersey.

Most northern areas were reporting a coating of snow, mostly on cold and grassy surfaces. However, the worst of the storm was expected to hit early Monday morning, when heavy snows and strong winds were expected to create blizzard-like conditions.

All of New Jersey was under a winter storm warning that was due to remain in effect through Monday afternoon. Most areas were expected to see 8 to 12 inches of snow - with slightly higher amounts possible in northern areas.

The Monday morning commute was expected to be treacherous, so officials were urging residents to stay home. Those who had to travel were told to allow extra travel time because roads were expected to be slick and slippery and visibilities were likely to be limited. A handful of schools had already canceled classes for Monday, and the state Senate canceled all its scheduled committee meetings.

NJ Transit said it would cross-honor tickets on its rail and bus systems Monday to give riders more travel options. And passengers planning to fly out of Newark Liberty International Airport were urged to call their carriers to see if their flights were delayed or canceled.

Speaking during a news conference Sunday afternoon, Corzine said the storm could cost the state anywhere from about $2.5 million to $7 million, depending on its severity. So far, New Jersey has spent about $22 million on this winter's "frequent snow events," an amount that's about twice as much as what was budgeted for this year.

Joe Orlando, a spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, said that agency had 308 plow trucks ready to go, and up to 280 private contractors who could be called in to help if necessary. It also had about 150,000 tons of salt to spread on the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

Erin Phalon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said it had almost 2,000 trucks ready to help clear the roads. Crews began salting the roads late Sunday afternoon to help prevent ice from forming later in the night.

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Associated Press Writer Samantha Henry contributed to this report.

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