Snow atop ice causes lots of accidents, little injuries

February 9, 2014
The scene of a tractor-trailer accident on Interstate 70 near the Beau Street exit - Linda Ritzer / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Lea Gorlisky, state police dispatcher at the Waynesburg barracks, had simple but sage advice for motorists attempting to duck winter’s latest fury of flurries Sunday afternoon.

“Hopefully, people will slow down and go home.”

She chuckled a little uneasily, because snow throughout the region – atop pre-existing ice – created hazardous roadways again, resulting in dozens of minor multivehicle crashes, slides into guardrails and ditches, and disabled vehicles or ones stuck on a swatch of ice, unable to move.

Yet Gorlisky was able to joke a little because, despite reports of two to three inches of snow in Washington, Greene and Allegheny counties as of late afternoon, no crashes reported to her barracks had involved injuries, and the vast majority across Southwestern Pennsylvania apparently were injury-free.

Among them was a tractor-trailer that descended onto the median on Interstate 70 east about midday, just east of the Beau Street exit in South Strabane Township. It caused a traffic backup in the eastbound lanes that was cleared about 1:30 p.m. No one was injured.

Accidents were abundant in Washington County, but a dispatcher at the county 911 center said, “There’s been nothing serious by any stretch of the imagination.”

Gorlisky said about 4 p.m. that two crashes on Interstate 79 and one on a Greene County road were reported to the Waynesburg barracks since her shift began in the early afternoon, “and I think there were some earlier today.” No one had been injured in any of them, she said.

Rihaan Gangat, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Moon Township, said the amount of snow wasn’t surprising. “The forecast,” he said, “was for one to three inches across the region and three to four” in higher elevations east and southeast of Pittsburgh, especially the Laurel Highlands.

Gangat said people called the weather service and posted on social media accumulation amounts. They included three inches in Holbrook, Greene County, at 4 p.m.; two inches in Graysville, Greene County, at 12:35 p.m.; and two inches in Downtown Pittsburgh and Carnegie by mid-afternoon.

And now for a break in the action: Snow isn’t forecast over the next few days, according to the Accuweather, but the cold will linger. On tap for today: partly sunny, high of 19, and partly cloudy at night with a low of 2 below zero.

Relatively balmy temperatures are expected to arrive Thursday, with highs in the mid-30s. The chance of snow, however, will be 40 percent.

Only five more weeks of winter.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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