Winter storm puts Pennsylvania in bull's-eye once again

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - February 12, 2014

After the trips for road salt and supermarket staples, it was time for hunkering down and waiting for the onslaught.

State Emergency Management Agency Director Glenn Cannon said 450 National Guard members were being called to duty Wednesday night and the state was preparing to activate its emergency operations center.

"I'm really concerned about the power grid in the southeast, given that it's just been put back up," Cannon said.

The expected track of the main part of the storm shifted westward from earlier forecasts, Cannon said, putting areas just east of Harrisburg in line for a foot or more of snow. The deepest snowfalls were expected into the Philadelphia suburbs and through the Pocono Mountains in the northeast.

"This is going to be a wet, heavy snow that will cling to trees and wires," Cannon said.

The storm could drop more than an inch an hour and was expected to severely affect the Thursday morning commute. Widespread school cancellations were a foregone conclusion.

Meteorologist Craig Evanego, with the National Weather Service in State College, said the snowfall could change to sleet, freezing rain or a wintry mix in southeastern Pennsylvania. He said winds of 25-30 mph were possible once the front passes through later Thursday.

Precise predictions about scope and location of the largest accumulations were hard to come by.

"These storms are always tricky, these coastal storms," Evanego said. "You get the narrow swath of the heaviest snow, and it's hard to say where that will happen."

Numerous municipalities in the projected path imposed special parking and travel restrictions ahead of the storm's arrival.

Pennsylvania Turnpike operators said all empty and double tractor-trailers would be prohibited from Breezewood east to the Delaware River and the entire Northeastern Extension.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Transatt said the highway agency was moving equipment from Erie, one of the nation's snowiest cities, and other western areas to Lancaster, Reading and the Lehigh Valley.

Waters-Transatt said PennDOT has used 926,000 tons of salt so far this season, compared to 748,000 tons at this point, on average, in recent years.

Lebanon City Mayor Sherry Capello declared a snow emergency early to give people time to get their vehicles off snow emergency routes. She said the winter season, with some 26 days of snowfall so far, has been tough on her maintenance workers.

"The guys are not getting a break," Capello said. "It's like every week and sometimes several times a week they are doing something related to a winter event."

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the city's 43 inches so far is nearly twice a normal year. If this storm is more than 6 inches in the city, it will represent the first time in recorded history that Philadelphia has seen four 6-inch storms in a season.

At Cantelmi's Hardware Store in Bethlehem, manager Tom Marks said he was doing a brisk business in heaters, shovels, snow blowers and just about everything storm-related except ice melt, which was sold out.

"We should have a load coming next week," he said. "It's been delayed because it's just a high demand right now."

PECO's emergency center never got a chance to shut down from last week's storm, spokesman Greg Smore said.

"Right now what we're doing is we are taking our crews out to look at areas where we might have weakened trees where they might be in a weakened state," Smore said.

The company also is working to retain out-of-area crews in the expectation of more outages.

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