PennDOT conserving rock salt amid snowy winter

National Weather Service says nor’easter won’t develop

February 5, 2014
A front loader sits idle with little remaining salt inside the PennDOT District 12-4 Stockpile 29 igloo at the Taylorstown exit of Interstate 70 Thursday afternoon. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

State Department of Transportation road crews in Southwestern Pennsylvania are being told to conserve salt halfway into a winter that has already received more snowfall than the region usually gets by the time the season ends March 19.

PennDOT expects to have enough salt, however, to make it through five more weeks of winter, and has another 11,000 tons of it on order, department spokeswoman Valerie Peterson said Wednesday after the region received as much as 4 inches of fresh snow mixed with sleet. Schools were again closed or delayed, and scattered power outages from ice were reported.

PennDOT received a number of local complaints after some side roads it maintains went unplowed Monday across Washington County following an unexpected storm that dropped 6 or more inches of snow by sunrise.

“Imagine sweeping your driveway and, by the time you’re done, snow has covered the driveway again,” Petersen said. “That’s what happens to the roads.”

She said trees fall across roads and motorists lose control of their vehicles, things that further interfere with PennDOT road crews getting their work completed.

There are 9,000 miles of roads in the four-county region, including Washington and Greene counties, that need to be plowed during two-hour runs of PennDOT plow trucks.

To conserve salt, drivers are adding antiskid material to what is applied to the roads. Petersen said the department cannot assure motorists all of the roads it maintains will be bare of snow during storms.

The Pittsburgh region has received 46.8 inches of snow. That’s nearly twice the amount of snow seen in the region during an entire winter season, said Brad Rehak, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

More snow flurries were expected in the area late Wednesday night, and the weather service is predicting a light snowfall Saturday evening.

The nor’easter that had been on the radar is not going to develop this weekend in the region, Rehak said.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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