Philly gears up for snowstorm

Philadelphians enjoy the snow in Rittenhouse Square during the city's last winter storm, in December.
HughE Dillon

Philadelphia and the surrounding region prepared Wednesday for what forecasters predicted could be one of the stronger snowstorms to hit the area in recent years.

Uncertainty remained Wednesday afternoon about exactly how much snow would accumulate. Meteorologists closely watched the line of demarcation separating snow and sleet.

The National Weather Service was projecting 4 to 8 inches in Philadelphia, though residents in the Northwest and Far Northeast sections of the city, as well as those in the suburbs, could see 8 to 12 inches.

Officials aren’t expecting the weather will delay shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is working with distributors to make sure all doses are delivered as planned this week. Hospitals in Philadelphia were scheduled to receive the vaccine Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I do know there’s a lot of thought they’re giving to the logistics around this, so I’m hopeful that we won’t see a problem with that,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday afternoon.

Coronavirus testing sites may be impacted, and the city is recommending people call ahead before going to a location.

Public school students in Philadelphia, who have been on a 100% virtual curriculum since March, will not receive a ‘snow day,’ School District of Philadelphia representatives said, and all students are expected to log on for their classes on time.

“The District has made significant investments to allow for our students to engage in digital learning since school buildings were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring,” district spokesperson Monica Lewis said in a statement.

“The beauty of virtual learning environments is that inclement weather doesn’t impact the ability to continue teaching and learning,” she said.

Lewis added that the district hopes students are able to take “brain breaks” and play outside.

Officials said schools would make schedule adjustments in the event of power outages.

The city’s Access Centers, which host children during the day while they complete their online coursework, closed early Wednesday and will not open on Thursday.

City workers began treating roads Tuesday and planned to salt all primary and secondary streets Wednesday, officials said. Residential roads in Manayunk and other hilly areas will receive attention, too.

The Department of Streets has 50,000 tons of salt at the ready, according to the city.

“Crews will continue snow operations until all conditions are safe for travel,” Managing Director Tumar Alexander said. “Our goal is to make roads passable and return the city back to normal operations as quickly as possible.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is asking drivers to avoid unnecessary travel, and it has imposed restrictions on several highways, including I-95, I-676 and the Schuylkill Expressway.

SEPTA said it planned to run the Broad Street and Market Frankford lines overnight Wednesday into Thursday, and the authority recommended people use the BSL or MFL if they need to travel.

In addition, riders should expect delays and cancellations on bus routes, and Regional Rail trips may also be impacted, SEPTA said.

Residents and businesses, even those that have been forced to close due to pandemic restrictions, are required to clear 36-inch paths on sidewalks within six hours after snowfall ends, according to the city.

Officials said restaurants that offer outdoor dining should remove as much of their seating as possible, including tables, heating equipment and any temporary structures.

In addition, the city said it is not liable if any outdoor eating areas are damaged by plowing.

Officials have not yet determined whether trash and recycling schedules will be impacted Thursday and Friday.

At least 13 city-supported food distribution sites set up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be closed Thursday. Residents can go to www.phila.gov/food or call 311 to confirm which locations are closed.

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