With periods of possible intense wind, snow and cold temperatures in the weekend forecast for the northwest region, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 1 is urging motorists to use caution while driving and avoid traveling whenever possible during severe weather conditions.
“Our preparations for the storm include plans to shift resources and crews as needed handle the changing weather conditions throughout the region, which includes Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties,” said Doug Schofield, PennDOT Assistant District Executive – Maintenance. “Salt, anti-skid and other materials are in good supply and crews will work around the clock, even on the holidays, to keep the roads safe and passable.”
In preparation for the predicted weather, PennDOT is planning to place a Tier 1 vehicle restriction on the entire length of Interstate 90 in Erie County starting at 4:00 AM Friday, December 23.
Under Tier 1 restrictions, the following vehicles are not permitted on affected roadways:
- Tractors without trailers;
- Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded enclosed trailers, open trailers or tank trailers;
- Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded tandem trailers;
- Enclosed unloaded or lightly loaded cargo delivery trucks/box trucks that meet the definition of a CMV;
- Passenger vehicles (cars, SUV’s, pickup trucks, etc.) towing trailers;
- Recreational vehicles/motorhomes;
- School buses, commercial buses and motor coaches; and
The purpose of the restriction is to help ensure the interstates remain open during the most challenging conditions of the winter storm. When conditions improve, PennDOT will remove the travel restrictions.
Travelers should keep a close eye on the weather both at home and along the route to their destination. The forecast calls of the range of wintry weather, most notably heavy wind that could cause whiteout conditions in areas where there is snow.
Motorists are reminded that roadways will not be free of snow while precipitation is falling. Although PennDOT crews will be treating roadways, the department’s primary goal is to keep roads passable, not completely free of ice and snow. PennDOT will continue to treat roadways throughout the storm until precipitation stops and roads are clear.
With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may actually be icy, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning. Drivers should leave plenty of space – six car lengths – when following a truck that is plowing or spreading winter materials.
For motorists who are traveling during times of snow or sleet, PennDOT offers this advice:
- Slow down gradually and drive at a speed that suits the conditions.
- Turn on your headlights.
- Stay in your lane.
- Increase your following distance.
- Stay alert, keep looking as far ahead as possible and be patient.
- Reduce in-car distractions since your full attention is required.
- Use defroster and wipers.
- Keep windows and mirrors free of snow and ice.
- During whiteouts, come to a complete stop only when you can safely get as far off the road as possible or when there is a safe area to do so.
- Do not stop in the flow of traffic since this could create a chain-reaction collision.
- Do not pass a vehicle moving slowly or speed up to get away from a vehicle that is following too closely.
- Give ample room for plow truck drivers to treat the roadways and never pass between two trucks operating in a plow line.
- Always buckle up and never drink and drive.
Vehicle restrictions will be communicated via variable message boards, the 511PA traveler information website at www.511PA.com and smartphone apps. Motorists can also sign up for alerts on the website.
While PennDOT recommends not traveling during winter storms, motorists can check conditions 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 1,000 traffic cameras.
511PA is also available through a free smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts.
Subscribe to PennDOT news and traffic alerts in Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties at www.penndot.gov/District1.