The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 1, 2014

Storm to rub salt in wound

Crews set to pepper roads as season’s snowfall could hit 50 inches

By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Municipalities are scrambling to purchase extra salt to treat roads as a massive storm inches toward the Valley, threatening to drop as much as a foot of snow beginning Sunday night.

Sunbury was nearly out of road salt late in February. This week, it bought another 150 tons. Down to its last five tons, Northumberland this week purchased 45 more. Borough officials plan to buy another 45 tons for reserve next week.

The 400 tons purchased by Point Township officials in April has yet to be depleted, Supervisor George P. Geise said.

“Really, from one year to the next, it’s a crapshoot,” he said. “Last year we had a surplus. This year, just enough.”

Geise said he paid about $1,300 for 22 tons of salt this year through a cooperate program with the state.

As his township prepares for the next storm, Geise said: “I just hope it’s a snow event. I can deal with snow. It’s ice that causes problems.”

Added Sunbury City Clerk Cheryl Delsite: “We will be ready come Sunday night, Monday.”

The storm is likely to bring up to a foot of snow to the Valley. There is the potential for much heavier amounts where sleet and freezing rain do not mix in and if the storm tracks just to the south of the Valley.

A shift in the storm track by as few as a few dozen miles can make the difference between a nuisance snowfall and a major disruption to travelers.

If the storm sweeps the Valley as predicted, total accumulations this winter could reach 50 inches, more than twice the average annual amount.

In a normal winter, Valley snowfall measures 27.2 inches, Randy Adkins, of AccuWeather, in State College, said Thursday night.

So far this winter, 36.8 inches of snow have fallen.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials are also gearing up for a major storm.

“Our team is keeping an eye on the forecast and our crews will be out attending to our roads during the storm in order to keep our roads safe and passable for our customers,” spokesman Rick Mason said Friday night.

Mason advised against unnecessary travel during winter storms.

“If you must head out,” he said, “we encourage you to check out for the latest travel information.”

Plane delays possible

Unless this storm is so heavy that visibility would be seriously impaired, flights out of Harrisburg International Airport will not be canceled, said Scott Miller, airport spokesman.

“We have plows that can clear the runway in minutes, if the snowfall is moderate and steady,” Miller said. “If it’s heavy, that’s another story.”

Unlike larger hubs such as Philadelphia, Atlanta or Charlotte, N.C., Harrisburg is a starting point or destination, Miller said.

“This is not a transfer airport for the most part,” he said. “We don’t have the traffic other airports do. US Airways has a pretty sophisticated texting system where they will alert customers if a flight is delayed or canceled and they’re very good at notifying people.”

Through Sunday, US Airways, United, Delta, Frontier and other carriers that use Harrisburg are planning scenarios based on the storm’s path.

“If a flight is scheduled to fly into Harrisburg Monday and the weather is bad, that plane will divert to the closest safe airport,” Miller said.

It’s very rare a customer is left without options at the airport, Miller said.

“If the delay or cancelation is a result of a natural event, the customer is responsible for finding a place to stay,” Miller said. “If the problem is mechanical, the airline is responsible for the customer.”

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