PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A winter storm snarled traffic and delayed flights across much of Pennsylvania, and rain, snow and high winds could cause more problems throughout the evening and early morning hours.
National Weather Service forecaster Greg Heavener said that temperatures are warming in the Philadelphia area, and conditions should change to all rain by early evening. But just 20 to 30 miles to the north freezing rain will continue, he said.
The weather service also issued a flood watch for southeastern Pennsylvania through 7 a.m. Thursday morning, and a high wind warning. Gusts could reach 40 mph or more, with even stronger winds along the coast.
In other parts of the state, the storm eased up as the day went on.
Western portions of the state got some heavy snow and sleet around noon, but by mid-afternoon skies had cleared and main roads were returning to normal. In general, forecasters expect most of the storm to end by midnight in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania utility companies reported only scattered power outages by late afternoon, but that could get worse later, too. PPL spokesman Brian Hay said the northeastern/Pocono part of the utility’s service area could be hardest hit by the storm.
The National Weather Service said Wednesday night that spotters had reported up to a foot of snow in McKean County, 11 inches in Potter County and 10 inches in Mercer County. Forecasters said 8½ inches was reported in Indiana and Clarion counties, and seven inches in Somerset, Clearfield and Centre counties.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike reduced speeds to 45 mph on more than 400 miles of roadway, from the Ohio border to the northeast extension. Turnpike authorities say motorists shouldn’t travel unless it is necessary, and there’s a ban on cars pulling trailers or campers.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reduced speed limits to 45 mph on Interstates 78, 80, and 81, on Interstates 90, 86 and 79 in northwestern Pennsylvania, and on I-376 in Mercer county.
The Philadelphia International Airport said there were about 175 canceled flights due to weather, and also delays that averaged three to four hours. The Pittsburgh International Airport remained open but cancellations from other airports resulted in some delays.
Many state office buildings closed early on Wednesday.
Non-essential state employees who work in the Capitol Complex, Harrisburg area, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton and Philadelphia State Office Buildings were authorized to leave work two hours early.
Essential public safety employees continued to work as scheduled statewide.
Non-essential Allegheny county employees were also sent home at 2 p.m., and many libraries, institutions and businesses in the Pittsburgh area closed early.
But some people weren’t letting the storm alter their normal routines.
In downtown Pittsburgh, Ron Conway, 62, took his dog Alex for a walk, as he does every day. “This isn’t winter,” Conway said of the light snow that had accumulated by 1 p.m. Conway said he told the secretaries in his office to go home but they were waiting, hoping roads would be better later in the afternoon.
Conway said reports of freezing rain in the region do worry him. “Nobody can drive on that,” he said.
By 3 p.m. snow and freezing rain had stopped in downtown Pittsburgh, and main roads were clearing. But accidents and traffic jams were reported on smaller roads in the region.
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