Transportation
4:41 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Winter Storm Draco Could Delay Travel Plans

UPDATE:  11AM 12/22/12

Weather officials say a winter storm  brought more than eight inches of snow to parts of western Pennsylvania. The National Weather Service says 8.3 inches was reported Saturday morning in Fayette County.

Parts of  Venango and Mercer Counties received six inches;  five inches in Forest County and four-inch totals were reproted in Clarion and Jefferson counties.

A winter storm warning for parts of western Pennsylvania remains in effect until 7 p.m. Saturday.

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The first large storm of the winter months is approaching Pennsylvania, and the state's Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is preparing the roadways and urging caution for motorists.

PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi said the agency is ready for "Winter Storm Draco".

"We do have crews out, pre-treating the roadways with a salt-brine mixture that helps to melt the initial snowfall," said Struzzi. "We are on shifts right now also, which means we have 24/7 coverage, with crews being out there around the clock monitoring the roadways."

Draco originated on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, and has been dropping snow across the Midwest on its way to Pennsylvania and the East Coast. Struzzi said he expects the snowfall to amount to just one or two inches, so he doesn't expect any need to put down the plows.

He said holiday drivers should leave plenty of extra time in order to drive slowly.

"You also want to be very cautious, with the temperatures being as frigid as they are, when you're travelling on bridges and overpasses," said Struzzi. "Those tend to freeze quicker than roadways, so motorists who are travelling on what appears to be a wet roadway could exit using a ramp or a bridge and find that there are slicker conditions on those elevated areas."

Struzzi said drivers should look to the state's 511 website for updated information on roadway travel times and closures.

Philip LaMay, acting director of the Allegheny County Public Works Department, said his agency is ready to send out trucks at all hours of the day. He said the department is focused on bridges and overpasses for this storm.

"We'll use the de-icing agents like liquid calcium and salt-brine and so on especially on the bridges, and those are the areas we like to hit first," said LaMay.

LaMay said he would only anticipate the use of plows if the storm exceeds expectations with five to six inches of snow.

AAA predicts that more than one-quarter of Americans will travel more than 50 miles by car this holiday season.