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New snow brings out plow crews

Though weaker than Valentine’s Day storm, state, city officials not taking anything for granted with this one.

Cars drive around Public Square in Wilkes-Barre as the roads just start to cover with snow at about 9 p.m. Sunday. A Wilkes-Barre official says the city plans to handle the storm according to usual procedures.

Times Leader Staff Photo/Fred Adams

WILKES-BARRE -- Though nothing close to the magnitude of the snowstorm that blanketed the region almost two weeks ago, a passing storm dropped enough sleet and snow on Sunday to mobilize plow-truck fleets and was expected to continue contributing to traffic concerns into this afternoon.

But even after this storm dies out, two more passing storms promise to keep frozen precipitation in the forecast for the rest of the week, said Justin Arnott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Binghamton, N.Y., which tracks weather conditions in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Two to 5 inches of accumulation are expected from this low pressure system, which tracked east from the Chicago area, Arnott said. Immediately on its heels is a storm tracking north from North Carolina, whose western edge is expected to pass over this region tomorrow, he said.

Wednesday and Thursday appear fairly clear so far, but a storm approaching from the West Coast should cross the continent and arrive in this region by Thursday or Friday, Arnott said.

Local road crews have more pressing concerns, however. The accumulation is not being handled any differently than usual, officials said, but the potential mix of sleet and snow poses problems uncommon to other storms.

“When you have snow then ice then snow, you have a possibility of packing happening,” said Karen Dussinger, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s District 4. “We had brought out the crews a little bit earlier and they had laid down brine on the interstates as well as other state roads by early afternoon.”

A salt and water mixture that colors roads a distinct white, the brine dries on the road to prevent snow from bonding to the roadway and packing, she said.

District 4 also activated for the first time a constantly staffed call center where county managers can report traffic issues, road closures or other conditions and have the reports collected and disseminated to people interested in the updates. The center opened at 4 p.m. on Saturday and will remain open throughout the current storm.

“It’s funneling our communications a little bit tighter through one source,” Dussinger said. “This is the first time we’re trying it out, and we’ll do a review on it … and we’ll see what works.”

Similar systems are already operational in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but it won’t become publicly available in District 4 for at least a few years, she said.

Butch Frati, Wilkes-Barre’s director of planning and development, said there were no plans to respond to this storm differently from the Valentine’s Day storm despite complaints that the reaction to that storm was inadequate.

“It’s the same plan that we’ve implemented in every storm that I’ve been involved with,” he said, which focuses on main roads and hills and then addresses side streets.

The problem with the last storm was the speed with which the accumulation came, he said. “Then you have to go from snow plowing to snow removal and that’s what takes the time. But I don’t see that here.”

He said nine trucks had been pre-treating roads since 3 p.m. Sunday and that a second shift was scheduled to run until 7 a.m. today.

The crews had been generally successful in keeping the roads wet as the snow fell on Sunday evening, he said. “I feel pretty confident we can keep that up.”

Throughout the area there were reports of mostly minor accidents.

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