Winter storm, ice could clog evening commute

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

A funny thing happened on the way to pretty much everything in Chester County shutting down on Wednesday: as of 9 a.m. only the first few flakes of what are expected to be a messy Winter storm started falling in the southern portion of the county.

Here’s why many businesses and most schools are shut: a storm bringing 3 to 5 inches of snow, followed by sleet and freezing rain and then, finally, rain, was expected to hit the region during the day, according to the National Weather Service.

The forecast led many to close their offices and local school districts announced they would shut by Tuesday night — and state officials warned motorists to try to stay off the roads if possible during the day Wednesday:

“This storm could bring with it a travel mess and so I encourage everyone who can stay off the roads to do so tomorrow,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. “Be sure to check your local weather and road conditions and heed the advice of local emergency responders and personnel, and, as always, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly.”

While the snow is messy, it is the ice — and the potential for the deadly combination of rain-slicked icy roads — that offers the greatest threat to motorists. The changeover from snow to a mix and then finally, rain, is expected to start in the southern portion of the county just after 5 p.m. — and gradually move north. That could lead to dangerous driving conditions in the evening commute — and those driving home then should try to stay on top of developments.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) is closely monitoring the weather and is in contact with county emergency officials to ensure all needs are being met.

“Conditions with this storm could change quickly, so we’ll be working closely with our county partners to anticipate any resources they might need from the state,” said PEMA Acting Director Randy Padfield.

PennDOT and the PA Turnpike have issued a commercial vehicle ban and phased restrictions on certain roadways through the storm, beginning at 6 a.m. tomorrow. See the latest map of bans and restriction here.

A concern for later in the week: localized flooding. Temperatures are expected to reach into the 50s on Thursday — leading to a rapid melt. Additional rain is expected both Saturday and Sunday (where temps could top 60), leading to saturated grounds and already full creeks and rivers. Motorists should take extra care when driving and not enter any flooded roadways.

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