Harrisburg, PA – With winter weather forecasted to impact much of Pennsylvania Thursday morning through Friday morning, Governor Tom Wolf said state agencies are prepared and is asking all Pennsylvanians to prepare, too.
“While weather forecasts are calling for varied types and levels of precipitation across the commonwealth, we must be prepared for all possible weather scenarios,” Governor Wolf said. “Pennsylvania’s state agencies are geared up to ensure resources and staff are prepared and ready to help.”
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency’s (PEMA) Commonwealth Response Coordination Center will be activated with extra watch officers staffing PEMA overnight and the situation awareness and logistics units beginning at 8:00 AM tomorrow; PennDOT area command will be active at PEMA beginning at midnight tonight. All other agencies, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, are on alert.
“PEMA is in close contact with county emergency management teams to ensure each has what it needs to help locally,” PEMA Executive Deputy Director Jeff Thomas said. “We conduct calls as needed to hear from each county – for a status report and to attend to any unmet needs. But, let me stress that our counties are prepared and ready to handle any need.”
PennDOT urges motorists traveling during winter weather to make sure their gas tank is full, and they pack an emergency kit, which should include non-perishable food, water, blanket, small shovel, and warm clothes. Remember also any special needs, such as baby food, pet supplies or medications.
“We have been preparing for winter since the last one ended, and we’re calling on the public to be our partners in safe travel,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “Drivers should check travel conditions before they leave home, allow plenty of time, and drive according to conditions, not their schedule.”
Motorists should make certain their vehicles are weather-ready with working windshield wipers, adequate wiper fluid, and snow tires or tires with adequate tread depth for ice and snow.
PennDOT is prepared with plow trucks, materials, and other equipment ready. Crews will be working around the clock if necessary to keep roads safe and passable.
With the varied types of precipitation expected with the storm, PennDOT is pretreating roadways where conditions warrant based on anticipated precipitation and road temperatures.
PennDOT anticipates reducing speed limits as necessary throughout the storm, and while no vehicle restrictions are planned at this time, they could be implemented if conditions warrant.
Motorists are reminded that roadways will not be free of snow while precipitation is falling. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may be icy, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning. Motorists should leave plenty of space – six car lengths – when following a truck that is plowing or spreading winter materials.
Motorists can check conditions and snow-plow locations on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 860 traffic cameras.
511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission provided the following tips for consumers to prepare and stay safe:
- Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on your monthly bills and posted on the PUC website.
- Save the website address for your utility’s outage reporting system, which can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Those electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites are available on the PUC website.
- Keep your cell phone charged, so you can contact your utility company, other emergency services and family members during any power outage.
- Secure necessary food, medicine and other supplies, including batteries for flashlights.
- Should you lose power during a storm, consider the following:
- Call your utility hotline to report outages – do not assume that the utility already knows about your outage or that others have already called.
- Do NOT touch or approach any fallen lines. If you have a downed power line or another hazardous situation, call 9-1-1 and then contact your utility.
- Stay away from objects or puddles in contact with downed power lines.
- Do NOT try to remove trees or limbs from power lines.
- Pre-charge cellular phones or keep a portable cell phone charger on hand. Plan to use a corded phone, cordless phones won’t work without electricity.
- Do NOT call 9-1-1 to report power outages. Those calls take dispatchers away from other emergencies and can also slow a storm response because you're not talking directly to the utility.
Tips to help stay safe until power is restored:
- Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards.
- If you use a generator, do NOT run it inside a home or garage. Also, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator, not your home's electrical system, which could shock or injure utility crews working on nearby power lines.
- Turn off lights and electrical appliances (except for the refrigerator and freezer). When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment.
- After you turn the lights off, turn one lamp on so you will know when power is restored. Wait at least 15 minutes after power is restored before turning on other appliances.
- Check on elderly neighbors and those with special needs who might need additional assistance.
- Electric power outages can affect gas furnaces and other appliances. If they do not function properly when power is restored call a professional for service.
- If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building immediately. Leave the door open and do NOT use phones, switch lights or turn appliances on or off, or take any other action while inside the building. After you are safely outside, call 9-1-1 from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.
“I cannot stress enough the importance for everyone to heed weather forecasts, listen to directions from emergency officials, and plan accordingly,” Governor Wolf said.
Ruth Miller, PEMA, 717-651-2161
Rich Kirkpatrick or Erin Waters-Trasatt, PennDOT, 717-783-8800
Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, PUC, 717-787-5722