HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For the third time this month, PennDOT crews are preparing to deal with another massive snowstorm that will impact much of Pennsylvania, and the department is urging motorists in affected areas to avoid unnecessary travel.
The storm is expected to bring heavy snow and severe winds between 20 and 30 mph, and those who absolutely must travel should expect delays and be certain that their emergency survival kits are packed in each vehicle.
"It's been a trying winter for all of us, and I sincerely thank all motorists who have wisely avoided unnecessary travel during the worst of conditions," said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. "Some forecasts suggest this upcoming storm could be on par with – or worse than -- other recent storms. I ask motorists to heed our renewed warnings and avoid travel unless absolutely necessary."
Earlier this month, much of southern Pennsylvania was battered with blizzard conditions, and this storm could bring similar conditions as wind gusts are expected to approach 50 mph across a large portion of the state.
"PennDOT and local crews fought through drifts as high as 15 feet during the Feb. 10 blizzard and this upcoming storm could produce similar, if not worse, conditions," Biehler said. "The bottom line is that with the extreme conditions expected, motorists must be prepared if they become stranded."
PennDOT warns motorists that with extreme wind gusts approaching 50 mph and heavy snowfall rates of one- to two-inches per hour, some secondary roads where drifting is prevalent will be blown shut until crews can direct equipment from primary routes.
"This is a very dangerous storm that is forecast, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying off the roads unless travel is completely necessary," Biehler said. "In addition to protecting your own safety and that of other drivers, minimizing travel during storms helps PennDOT to do its job more efficiently and effectively."
Motorists who become stranded should not risk trying to walk to safety unless they are absolutely certain of their surroundings. If stranded in a vehicle, PennDOT recommends that motorists stay with their vehicle and use the items packed in their emergency kit. Drivers should keep a downwind window cracked for fresh air and turn the vehicle on every so often for heat, but only after clearing the tailpipe from snow.
A basic emergency survival kit should include non-perishable food, water, blanket, small shovel and warm clothes. When preparing an emergency kit, motorists should take into account special needs of passengers such as baby food, pet supplies or medications and pack accordingly.
In addition to packing a survival kit, motorists should tell a relative or friend what time they will travel, the route they'll take and their destination.
Due to the extreme wind gusts currently forecast, PennDOT advises motorists who encounter expected white-out conditions to stop only after safely getting as far off the road as possible or when there is a safe area to do so. Also, do not stop in the flow of traffic since this could create a chain-reaction collision.
According to Biehler, interstates and other high-volume expressways are treated first during winter storms. Secondary state routes are a lower priority and during severe winter storms, deeper accumulations will occur on these roadways.
PennDOT reminds motorists that its primary goal is to keep roads passable, not completely free of ice and snow. PennDOT will continue to treat roadways throughout the storm until after precipitation stops and roads are clear. The department has more than 480,000 tons of salt in stock around the state.
Including the storms from earlier this month, PennDOT has spent $159 million out of its projected winter allocation of $180 million. If the department exhausts its winter budget, it will tap funds normally reserved for spring maintenance. PennDOT's winter budget is part of its overall $1.2 billion roadway maintenance budget. PennDOT has spent about 52 percent of its overall roadway maintenance budget for the 2009/10 fiscal year.
PennDOT asks motorists to allow plenty of space when driving near plow trucks. Also, for their own safety and the safety of plow operators, motorists should never attempt to pass a truck while it is plowing or spreading winter materials.
Because weather and road conditions can deteriorate quickly, motorists should always check the weather forecast before traveling. Road conditions for interstates and some limited-access highways are available by visiting www.511pa.com before you leave home, or by calling 511 while stopped in a safe location.
For more winter driving tips and information on how PennDOT treats winter storms, visit www.dot.state.pa.us/winter.
PennDOT also reminds citizen that downloadable materials, including home and car emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, are available at www.ReadyPA.org or by calling 1-888-9-READYPA.
Media contact: Steve Chizmar, 717-783-8800
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Transportation