Snow, sleet freezing rain.
That forecast is starting to sound familiar to Centre County residents, who just last week experienced a “smorgasbord” of wintry precipitation, which closed area schools and Penn State.
This week, an initial blast of snow Wednesday morning around 7 a.m. will turn to sleet and freezing rain by mid-afternoon and continuing into the evening, according to the National Weather Service State College, making for potentially hazardous commutes to and from work and school.
Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District already canceled Tuesday evening for Wednesday.
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“The storm system moving from the south will bring initially cold air through the region, which will result in the snow, and then warm air vection into the mid levels of the system will allow for the mix precipitation type,” NWS meteorologist Joe Ceru explained.
The snow is expected to intensify fairly quickly once it starts, Ceru said, which will be around morning commute time for most people. The snow is projected to continue intensifying, with the heaviest amounts of snowfall expected around mid-morning. Those who are traveling during the morning or afternoon can expect reduced visibility and travel delays, Ceru said.
The snow is forecast to change over to sleet and freezing rain sometime between 1 and 3 p.m., Ceru said around 11 a.m. Tuesday. That could make for slippery roads and sidewalks during the afternoon.
In all, the NWS is projecting 4-6 inches of snow and sleet, and 0.10-0.25 inch of ice to accumulate in the Centre County region. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 20s, with winds at 10-15 mph with gusts up to 20 mph.
“The evening commute, I think, will be more of the heavier concern, because you’ll have ice on top of snowfall,” Ceru said. “So whatever snow was not cleared or still lingering, you’re going to have ice on top of it.”
In addition to deteriorating road conditions, the potential for ice also increases the chances for regional or localized power outages.
Ceru urges those traveling anytime on Wednesday to anticipate traffic disruptions, and to use reduced speed.
“It’s been shown that just a small decrease in speed will greatly increase your chances for road safety,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced commercial vehicle (including buses) bans on highways throughout the state, including Interstate 99 from I-80 in Centre County to the Turnpike at Breezewood, effective at 6 a.m. Wednesday. There will also be restrictions on empty, double trailers, motorcycles and recreation vehicles on I-80 through Centre County, starting at noon.
The wintry mix is projected to continue into the late evening on Wednesday, tapering off by early Thursday morning, when there could be a brief period of rain.
The good news for Centre County is that warm air is expected to enter the region on Thursday, bringing temperatures above freezing and the potential for rain.
The warming trend is projected to continue through Saturday, with forecast temperatures up to the low-mid 40s. By Sunday, temperatures might even get into the upper 40s, Ceru said.