By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
A rapidly moving arctic cold front swept through the Valley on Monday, covering roads with a sheet of snow that soon turned to ice, causing numerous traffic accidents, road and highway closures.
At one time or another, sections of Routes 11 and 15 and Interstate 80 were closed. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation crews were immediately dispatched throughout the region, said spokesman Rick Mason.
According to a Union County emergency dispatcher, I-80 was shut down in both directions for about four hours because of multiple vehicle accidents. One of those accidents was a truck crash in the eastbound lane around mile marker 207 that blocked and backed up traffic for several miles.
There was a crash on I-80 westbound in Northumberland County around 4 p.m. that backed up traffic into Montour and Columbia counties. That stretch reopened around 8 p.m.
A car accident on Point Township Road caused traffic to come to a standstill in both directions on Route 11 between Ridge Road and Epler Road. By 9 p.m., the road was cleared.
When a tractor-trailer slid sideways onto a hill off Route 15 North, between Lewisburg and Williamsport, that road was closed to one lane and an alternative route.
A two-vehicle accident on Route 304, outside of Mifflinburg, sent five people to Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg with minor injuries after a freakish snow squall pounded the back and side roads, Mifflinburg Fire Chief John Heiges said.
A Mifflinburg woman was injured and taken to Evangelical hospital after the car she was driving slid into another car on Route 104 in the area of Pottery Lane, Centre Township, Snyder County. Both cars were stopping to allow an ambulance to pass.
The cause of Monday’s problem was an arctic cold front that brought not only frigid air into the Valley, but also quick bursts of snow, said AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Edwards.
Total snowfall was less than one inch in most parts of the Valley. Western Union County was the exception, with amounts reported to be as deep as 5 inches in Forest Hill.
“But that inch caused havoc,” Edwards said. “It fell to the ground and because it is so cold, it froze instantly. So while there wasn’t a lot, it was slick and drivers just skidded if they weren’t careful.”
Temperatures also plunged to below 20 degrees, the beginning of about a week of sub-freezing temperatures, Edwards said.
He said AccuWeather models predicted temperatures to stay below freezing until the weekend — at least.
Today through Wednesday, weather will be frigid, with highs at 18-19, and with winds gusting to 35 mph, it will feel like it’s below zero.
Edwards added that the Valley faces a possible 2 to 4 inches of snow Thursday into Friday. “And it could be more than that in some areas,” he said.