Pennsylvania leaders recently outlined the commonwealth’s plans for services in the coming winter season and how the public can prepare.
“Our No. 1 priority is safety, and that guides our winter preparations and operations,” said Melissa Batula, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Acting Executive Secretary. “We are ready for the season ahead and motorists are our partners in making this season a safe one.”
The public can access travel information on nearly 40,000 state-maintained roadway miles year-round at 511PA.com. During the winter, they can find plow-truck locations and details of when these roadways were last plowed. Operational and traveler resources are also available at penndot.gov/winter.
Ahead of the winter season, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is preparing its entire fleet of trucks, plows and salt spreaders and training more than 400 licensed equipment operators so they are ready to activate 24/7 staffing.
“Our professional crews have worked hard to prepare for the upcoming winter season, and they are ready,” said Craig Shuey, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission COO. “Winter storms are a fact of life in our region, so drivers should take the time now to inspect the condition of their own vehicles and be sure that wipers and tires will perform well. Also, now is the time to download the 511PA app to access traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information for all of Pennsylvania’s major roadways. You can be ready for what’s up ahead with the swipe of a screen.”
With $197.7 million budgeted for this winter’s statewide operations, PennDOT deploys 4,700 on-the-road workers, has more than 560,000 tons of salt on hand across the state and will take salt deliveries throughout the winter.
PennDOT is seeking more than 600 temporary equipment operators statewide for the winter season to supplement the department’s full-time staff. Details on minimum requirements, such as possession of a CDL, as well as application information, are available at employment.pa.gov.
If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 301 crashes resulting in four fatalities and 143 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.
Motorists should prepare for potential bad weather by ensuring they have supplies in their cars before heading out – food, water, blankets, extra gloves and hats, cell phone charger, hand or foot warmers, windshield brush and scraper, and any specialized items like medications or baby and pet supplies.
“If you must travel during times of inclement winter weather, your planning should include knowing how you’ll get weather and travel alerts along your travel route,” said Randy Padfield, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director. “Make sure others know your estimated travel time, and have basic emergency supplies in your car, including any specialized items needed for young children or pets.”
Padfield said it’s also important to know the difference between a weather watch and warning:
– A watch means there is increased risk of a hazardous weather event, but its occurrence, location or timing is still uncertain; pay attention to forecasts and plan out what you will do if/when it occurs
– A warning means the weather event is imminent or is happening; take immediate action to protect lives and property
In addition, snow squalls can produce dangerous and deadly travel hazards on otherwise clear winter days. The National Weather Service now issues “Snow Squall Warnings” which alert drivers of whiteout conditions and slippery roadways, so motorists can avoid traveling directly into these dangerous squalls.