A major winter storm is targeting the Mid-Atlantic, and Centre County will be affected.
Gov. Tom Wolf declared a state of emergency Thursday morning for southeast and south-central areas of the state in preparation for the storm.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser have also declared a state of emergency.
As of Thursday, weather models have predicted that the heaviest snow, as much as 2 feet in some places, will fall across Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Centre County is on the northern fringe of the storm and is expected to receive 3 to 5 inches of snow, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Gartner.
While exact snowfall amounts are still relatively uncertain, Gartner said it will “begin falling Friday night, after dark, closer to midnight, tapering off Saturday night into Sunday morning.”
There is also uncertainty among meteorologists as to the exact track of the storm.
“With this storm we have a very sharp cutoff in terms of precipitation along the northern fringe,” said AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist Tom Kines.
A slight shift may give the area more snow than currently predicted.
“It wouldn’t take much of a shift in the track, further north, for us to get a significant snowfall, somewhere between 6 to 8 inches,” Kines said.
While there is still a level of uncertainty as to the exact amount of snow Centre County will receive, it only takes a little snow to affect roads and airports.
“Washington Dulles, Reagan and Philadelphia international airports will most likely be affected severely by delays and cancellations Saturday. Those delays will even trickle down into North Carolina,” Kines said.
University Park Airport has flights to Washington Dulles and Philadelphia.
“Every delay is not because of the airlines. There is no way that we can control the weather, but we try our best to accommodate our passengers,” said Madyson Boyer, a customer service agent at United Airlines at the University Park Airport.
“There are the rare occasions that people are trying to get home and they have nowhere to go, so they get re-booked a day or two later. There are occasions that we can provide them with accommodations, just so they are not sleeping in the airport,” Boyer said.
But sometimes sleeping on those airport chairs is the only option.
“Passengers can now spend the night in the University Park Airport. It wasn’t always like that. The airport is now equipped with staff that keep the airport secure and open for people when they have no where to go,” Boyer said.
But what happens if you get stuck on a roadway?
“You should always carry an emergency kit with you in these situations. If travel isn’t necessary, don’t. If you can plan ahead, visit” 511pa.com, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marla Fannin said.
Drifting snow may jam major traffic arteries like Interstate 99, Interstate 80 and U.S. Route 322, diminishing visibility.
“Harrisburg has a good chance of getting 10 to 12 inches so anyone traveling along 322 headed southbound should use caution. Assuming we get some snow, the roads will be slippery Saturday. While I don’t think the winds are going to be really strong, I think the winds will be strong enough to blow the snow around,” Kines added.
PennDOT tracks storms through its partnership with AccuWeather.
“AccuWeather gives us very detailed information, timing things out for us very well. Our folks will be out around the clock and we will stay out, treating roadways through the entire storm,” Fannin said.
Kines advised travelers to be on the lookout for worsening weather.
“Anyone traveling south on Saturday needs to know that it’s going be much worse than here in Centre County. (U.S.) 322, I-99 and the further south you go, will get progressively worse,” Kines said.
The predictions, especially for areas in southern Pennsylvania, prompted time changes for State College Area High School basketball games Friday. The boys’ and girls’ teams are both playing Harrisburg’s Central Dauphin High School, with 4 p.m. start times for the junior varsity games, two hours earlier than scheduled, with the varsity games to follow. The girls’ game is in State College, and the boys’ game is in Harrisburg.
While some are dreading potential delays and cancellations, Tussey Mountain staff is preparing for what is likely to be a busy weekend.
“There’s a buzz going around right now, which is great. It’s been cold and we’ve been open for a couple of weeks. When there is real actual snow in the forecast, that gets us excited,” said Aaron Weyman, director of marketing for Tussey Mountain.
While Tussey has been making snow for a few weeks, Weyman said people tend to ski when they see snow on the ground.
“Even when there is just an inch on the ground, or a coating, something people can see outside of their windows, people are reminded that it’s winter and they want to get out and use it. We are here for them to do that,” Weyman said.