Eastern, central Pa. brace for latest winter storm

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HARRISBURG (AP) – Pennsylvania officials are urging people to make basic preparations as another winter storm takes aim at the state.


The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning Wednesday for parts of eastern and central Pennsylvania, predicting 6 to 10 inches of snow with a trace of ice for the Lehigh valley, the Philadelphia area and parts of central Pennsylvania. Lancaster, York and Adams counties could get 8 to 12 inches of snow.


Forecasters said travel could be significantly affected and urged commuters to take extra time and reduce speeds. And winds of 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph could lead to power outages if snow accumulates on power lines and tree limbs by the time the winds pick up, they said.


“The tree limbs already weakened by the last event could snap,” said Jim Bunker, observing program leader at the weather service office in Mount Holly, N.J. “There also could be heavy snow on the power lines that could bring them down as well.”


Utility crews, meanwhile, have been scrambling to restore power to the last few customers left without electricity by last week’s ice storm. Need to take extra time in travel on morning commute.


Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency director Glenn Cannon said Tuesday that given the possibility of power outages, a home emergency kit should have enough supplies to help people get through three days without electricity, and added motorists should avoid unnecessary travel.


The track of the storm was coming into focus even as crews worked to restore power for the last few suburban Philadelphia customers who were among the hundreds of thousands in the state left in the dark after last week’s snow and ice storm.


The prospect of several inches – and maybe a foot or more in some places – put more pressure on already stretched stockpiles of road salt and sent consumers on a hunt for French toast supplies: milk, bread and eggs.


“We’re already shipping out extra products in stores and telling our stores to juggle their schedules,” said Weis Markets spokesman Dennis Curtin. “We’re sending out extra shipments to virtually every one of our stores.”


PECO said about 350 customers remained without power Wednesday morning, most of them in Bucks County, while FirstEnergy and PPL said they were able to get everyone back on line over the weekend. The storm last week knocked out power to about 750,000 customers in the state.


All three utilities said they were monitoring weather forecasts and expressed confidence they would be able to field sufficient crews to handle any new outages.


PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez said some of the crews brought in from Alabama have already headed back home, especially since that region is in the path of its own winter storm. PECO has been figuring out which out-of-area crews it can keep on the job to deal with the new storm. FirstEnergy’s Scott Surgeoner said its plans include bringing in its employees from unaffected areas, including other states.


Eric Horst, director of the Weather Information Center at Millersville University, said the storm should not stick around long enough to leave enough snow so that it will compare with some of the record-setting winter storms in recent decades, but some areas may get a foot or more. West of Harrisburg will see little or no wintry weather, while southern New Jersey may see some snow followed by hours of rain.


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