Winter storm socks region; area schools on delays Friday

cpassante@centredaily.comFebruary 12, 2014 

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A snowstorm pounded Centre County on Thursday, dropping nearly 8 inches of snow, closing schools, canceling meetings, flights and shutting down highways.

The weather prompted all Centre County school districts to close Thursday, as well as several private schools and day cares.

For Friday, two-hour delays were announced for State College, Bellefonte, Bald Eagle, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola area school districts, and St. Joseph's Catholic Academy.

Storm totals varied around the county. As of 8 p.m., Woodycrest in Patton Township had more than 8 inches, while Stormstown had 7 inches as of 6:30 p.m. Pleasant Gap had 8 inches as of 8 p.m., while areas in the Centre Region had anywhere from 7-10 inches.

During the afternoon, a heavy band of snow that made its way northward dropped 1 to 2 inches an hour, said Craig Evanego, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

A winter storm warning was in effect until 10 p.m.

As the snow continued Thursday afternoon, Penn State officials announced an early dismissal for students at 2:15 p.m. and staff at 2:45 p.m.

Nearly all flights in and out of University Park Airport were canceled Thursday. West Penn Power reported no outages.

The storm is part of a large system that dropped several inches of snow and ice in the Deep South, and as it moved northward, buried the Harrisburg and Gettysburg areas with more than a foot of snow, Evanego said.

Roads throughout Centre County were treacherous for most of the day, with road crews working to plow, salt and sand.

Speed limits on Interstate 99 in Centre County were reduced to 45 mph, according to PennDOT. Speed reductions were in effect in Juniata and Mifflin counties on routes 322 and 22.

Sections of Interstate 80 in Centre County were closed between Exit 173 in Lamar, Clinton County, and Exit 161, Bellefonte. A detour moved traffic onto Route 64, north on Route 220 and back on I-80 at Exit 161, according to PennDOT.

Harris and Patton townships and State College declared snow emergencies. All vehicles must be removed from township streets until the emergency is lifted, and sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours after the snow has stopped.

Many municipalities will declare snow emergencies when 2 or more inches of snow have fallen and roads need to be plowed. Cars must be off the streets until the streets have been cleared.

The State College parking garages and parking lots remained open, and downtown patrons were asked to use the Fraser and Pugh street garages, McAllister Deck or public parking lots. Garage use was free of charge until 6 a.m. Friday.

A midnight clear was declared for Penn State, which includes Innovation Park. All vehicles must be moved to the parking decks or designated parking areas.

Meteorologist David Martin of the NWS in State College said more snow — but not as much — is on the way Friday.

“There’s a weak system coming in tomorrow evening from the Kentucky and Ohio area, and as it moves across Virginia, it will bring some light snow with it,” he said.

Martin said Centre County can expect about an inch, and possibly a light dusting as colder air moves in Sunday.

But for those with cabin fever, hang tight. Temperatures are expected to climb into the upper 30s and low 40s into the first part of next week, with higher temperatures heading into next weekend, Martin said.

“The 40s look doable, perhaps 50s by the weekend,” he said. “High pressure is moving off the East Coast, and a change in the storm track is much farther south, allowing the jet stream to be north of Pennsylvania for a change.”

That doesn’t mean we’re out of the winter woods just yet, Martin said.

“We’ll have a few days of warm-up, but it will be up and down a lot. And March is a transition month.”

Snowfall is “a little” above normal for the year. Centre County averages about 44 inches a year.

“We’ve had a lot of small to medium storms,” Martin said.

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