A punishing, peristent storm had dumped as much as 2 feet of snow and sleet on Northeastern Pennsylvania by 3:30 p.m. today, closing schools, businesses, highways and secondary roads and causing at least three reported roof collapses.Drivers didn't heed the warnings.
Lackawanna County officials declared a state of emergency at 2:30 p.m., three hours ahead of the storm's projected departure from the region. Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty followed suit at 3:15 p.m. The declaration allows Mr. Doherty to hire independent contractors without City Council's approval.
The county declaration, which is valid through noon Thursday, is aimed at encouraging motorists to stay home and make way for emergency crews, Commissioner Chairman Robert C. Cordaro said.
"Abandoned and trapped vehicles are starting to impede our first responders," he said. "We need to be able to keep the routes clear so they can respond to emergency calls."
The county's declaration does not close roads. Such decisions will be left to individual municipalities. Nor does it automatically trigger state and federal funding. The move was requested by Roads and Bridges officials and other county departments so they can get vital work done.
Cars and tractor-trailers were strewn like toys along icy roads and highways throughout the region. Some big rigs literally froze in their tracks on interstate exit ramps and at intersections as their diesel fuel turned to gel in freezing temperatures.The storm dwarfs the PennDOT.
State police spent much of the day assisting strantded motorists, Trooper Bill Satkowski said.
"Drivers failed to heed the warnings," he said. "They insisted on driving, now there are probably over 100 cars stranded on the interstate because of the weather."
State police responded to only a handful of accidents, none serious, Trooper Satkowski said.
State and local crews began salting and plowing roads as the storm began Tuesday, but were having trouble keeping up with the relentless precipitation.
"As long as it keeps falling so steadily and without a break, then we are chasing our tails," said Karen Dussinger, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. "It's fast, hard and changing what it's doing as it falls, so we have to stop and keep changing our methods."
PennDOT crews are working in 12-hour shifts, covering 50 miles of roadway every two hours, she said.And we're no better off than when we started!
"We have every truck out, every man out, we are well stocked and loading and reloading and just can't seem to get ahead of it," Ms. Dussinger said.
Interstates 81, 380 and 84 and the Joseph. M. McDade Expressway were closed Wednesday afternoon after plow trucks and state and city police found it nearly impossible to naivigate around abandoned vehicles.
Covington Roadmaster Tom Yerke went home about 10 a.m. Wednesday after 18 hours trying to clear township roads.
"We're no better off than we started," he said. "The roads aren't even passable no matter what we do. We'll come back out when the snow stops."Be thankful there were no injuries.
A dispatcher who answered the phone for state police at Pocono, responsible for patrolling the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, said "accidents are everywhere, they're everywhere," adding that no one was life-flighted as a result of the accidents. He would not give his name. The turnpike did not close.
At 1:15 p.m., Scranton firefighters were dispatched to the U.S. Army Reserve Center at Pine Street and Colifax Avenue in the city's Hill Section after reports of the roof caving in. The collapse happened in the rear of the facility, according to initial reports from the Lackawanna County Communications Center. It was unclear if anyone was injured as of 3:30 p.m.
About 2:30 p.m., a roof collapse was reported at the Jessup Sports Dome. Police Chief Pat Kane said there were no injuries, but was unsure about the extent of damage. About 15 minutes later, another roof collapse was reported at a warehouse at 21 Franklin St., in Jermyn.
There's another storm going on elsewhere ... ahem ... in which warnings were not heeded and our forces are dwarfed, and we're no better off than when we started, but lots of people have been injured, in some cases fatally.
Here's a tip: You can usually tell how you're doing by whether Sears stays open.
Schools and businesses throughout the region closed their doors as hotels filled with stranded travelers. Viewmont Mall closed at 1:15 p.m., but Sears stayed open. The Mall at Steamtown didn't open at all.It's just one storm after another lately. Snow, Sand, what's the difference?
Snowfall had reached 10 inches in Scranton by 3:30 p.m. and would likely reach 12 inches by storm's end, WYOU-TV Chief Meteorologist Scott Stuccio said. Wilkes-Barre had seen up to 12 inches, he said. Up to 20 inches of snow fell in parts of Suquehanna County. Parts of Wayne County saw as much as 2 feet. At least 16 inches of snowfall was reported in Clarks Summit as of 3 p.m.
The storm's fury made national news, sharing some of the spotlight with Scranton. Crews from The Weather Channel interviewed Mr. Cordaro on Courthouse Square for coverage to air on MSNBC and NBC nightly news.
Let's go shopping! Sears is still open!!