Fearsome snowstorm causes chaos in Philly area

The wild winter is not over yet. 

While Philly was hit with arctic temps recently, the lack of snowfall meant most city offices stayed open through the recent frigid polar vortex. But when the snow came Wednesday, folks ran for the hills.

Three to five inches of snow ccumulated over the day, with flakes starting to fall around 10 a.m. Wednesday and intensifying through the afternoon. Many offices and institutions in the Philadelphia area and around the state were closed.

“This storm could bring with it a travel mess and so I encourage everyone who can stay off the roads to do so tomorrow,” said Gov. Tom Wolf, who announced the state’s Emergency Mangement Agency will be monitoring the storm. “Be sure to check your local weather and road conditions and heed the advice of local emergency responders and personnel, and, as always, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly.”

As forecast by the National Weather Service Mt. Holly station, the storm began with snow, then changed to wintry mix before transitioning to rain in the afternoon to evening hours. But the change in precipitation made the storm even more of a slushy mess, with the evening commute  snarled and sloppy, and low temps creating icy conditions forming in some areas.

With all that in mind, the Philadelphia Streets Department geared up early for the storm by “brining” major thoroughfares with a salty solution that is intended to keep snow from sticking to the pavement. In addition, the Department had 270 pieces of equipment and 35,000 tons of salt ready to go to begin salting operations once the snow started to fall.

“The cold ground will make it easy for wintry mix to accumulate and cause slippery travel. Sleet and rain can cause other hazardous conditions such as down trees and wires impacting traffic conditions,” the Streets Department warned. While trash pick-up is operating one day behind due to President’s Day, it was scheduled to continue as planned through Wednesday’s snowstorm, Streets said. 

From 9 p.m. Wednesday on, the storm was expected to change to rain, but it was unclear how long it would last or if icy, snowy conditions will remain Thursday morning, but over the course of the day, temps are forecast to rise from 33 degrees to a high of 55.

Snow problems around Philly

As flakes first started falling around 10 a.m., the city of Philadelphia announced government offices would be closing citywide at 1 p.m. Essential, emergency-related services, as well as 311 offices and the Philly Water Department’s Customer Service Line, remained open.
In South Jersey, two people were killed in a multi-vehicle crash on Route 530 in Pemberton, NJ, in Burlington County around 12:30 p.m. Two others were reportedly injured.

Other storm related effects around the city included:

Philadelphia International Airport canceled about 100 flights.

All Philadelphia public and Catholic schools were closed Wednesday.

All Courts and offices of the Philadelphia Courts were closed due to the weather, but critical court services remained active. Jurors summoned for duty had their day of service rescheduled.

Code Blue was put into effect through Thursday morning. If you see anyone suffering from homeless outdoors during the cold, call (215) 232-1984. A Code Blue also means that dogs are required to be brought indoors or in safe shelters.

All inmate visits to Philadelphia prisons were canceled.

All Montgomery County courts and offices were closed, as were Chester County Government facilities and courts.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced a commercial vehicle ban along highways where the snowfall was expected to be heaviest. (Check 511Pa.com for specific updates).

PennDOT also said that 15 of their Driver License and Photo License Centers would be closed due to weather; five more were opening with a five-hour delay.  Check dmv.pa.gov for details.

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