Nor’easter to unload more snow in one day than was seen all last year

Central Pennsylvania is on track to see among the highest accumulations expected from what could turn out to be a historic December winter storm.

The midstate could see as much as two feet of snow from the storm, which is expected to move hard and fast through the mid-Atlantic beginning Wednesday morning and last through to Thursday morning The 11 p.m. forecast remained aligned with what has been predicted throughout the day.

Snow could begin as flurries from southwest to northeast by mid-morning and starting piling up by noon or 1 o’clock across central Pa. It should fall hardest Wednesday evening and through the overnight hours.

State officials are warning everyone to stay off the roads. Slick road conditions and reduced visibility are poised to make travel throughout the region difficult and dangerous.

The storm is expected to cause widespread disruptions, including power outages as a result of strong winds.

The fast-moving nor’easter is expected to dump across the northeastern United States more snow in one day in some places than was seen in total last year. In fact, last year, was one of the least-snowiest seasons on record[1] for the mid-Atlantic, according to Accuweather.

The blockbuster winter storm, bolstered by an injection of cold air, is expected to unload upwards of 2 feet of snow in some parts of the midstate.

Ahead of the storm, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a proclamation of disaster emergency[2]. The storm – which will bring strong winds and heavy, wet snow – is expected to cause power outages and could bring down trees and power lines.

The heavy snowfall could lead to major delays of shipments at a time when a critical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has begun[3].

“Currently, models predict that the first significant winter storm in nearly a year will hit Pennsylvania tomorrow,” Wolf said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “The commonwealth’s emergency preparedness teams have spent a great deal of time and energy over the last several months supporting efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and help the commonwealth weather this public health emergency and ensure vaccines are delivered as planned. This proclamation makes it easier for all of those involved in vaccine delivery and keeping people safe to do their jobs.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission are advising motorists to avoid all unnecessary travel during the storm, and are anticipating that restrictions on trucks and other vehicles will be imposed on certain roadways around the state.

“We have been preparing for winter since the last one ended, and we’re calling on the public to be our partners in safe travel,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian in a press release. “Please, avoid traveling and if you must travel, be sure to check travel conditions and give plow operators plenty of space so they can do their jobs safely and effectively.”

The storm is expected to pack destructive winds that will likely create near-blizzard conditions for parts of the region.

The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches and warnings[4] across eight states from North Carolina to Massachusetts ahead of the storm.

Bill Gartner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said some areas in the midstate could see upwards of two feet of snow.

Some central Pennsylvania counties could see between 18 to 24 inches of snow if corridors containing heavy bands of snow pass through the area, Gartner said.

Forecasters warn that the storm will cause major disruptions to travel and holiday gift shipping. The storm is also expected to cause school closings and even impact students working from home, as power outages spread across the region.

Forecasters say the projected speed of the storm is likely to lessen the severity of the storm. Forecasters say the storm’s fast-moving speed will keep overall snow totals down. Even still, at the storm’s peak, snow is expected to come down at a rate of 1 to 3 inches per hour.

The City of Harrisburg on Tuesday announced snow emergency plans for city residents.

By special arrangement with Park Harrisburg, residents will be able to park without charge at the Locust Street Garage, located at 214 Locust Street, beginning at noon Wednesday through Thursday afternoon, according to a press release.

The Public Works Department has 16 trucks that will be deployed throughout the city to keep major roads clear.

PennDOT [5]said the state agency is well stocked with supplies and equipment to handle snowstorms this year. Last year’s relatively mild winter left the department with some surplus: for instance, in the eight county region surrounding Harrisburg, there are 124 thousand tons of salt on hand.

“The pandemic has affected us just like it’s affecting everybody,” said Dave Thompson, spokesperson for PennDOT, said, noting that PennDOT staff has maintained all necessary social distancing and cleaning protocols throughout the pandemic. “But we still have a job to do.”

Drivers had already taken dry runs for their routes in preparation for Wednesday’s storm, and while PennDOT was not able to meet their desired hiring goals for drivers this year, re-arranging routes has left them prepared to fill the gaps.

AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said that cold air, which has already moved in place ahead of the storm, is poised to mix with moisture from the Atlantic on Wednesday, supercharging the storm.

“All the ingredients are now coming together for our snowstorm, and I really don’t see a way out of this for many cities across the Northeast,” he said.

It’s a storm expected to affect all of Pennsylvania, with predictions of up to a foot in Philadelphia and its western suburbs blown around by winds of up to 35 mph, and 5 to 8 inches in the Pittsburgh metro area. Around a foot of snow is forecast for Johnstown, with lesser amounts to the west of it, and anywhere from 12 to 20 inches are predicted for eastern Pa. cities such as Allentown and Scranton. Almost the entire state has been under a winter storm warning since Wednesday morning; only Erie and vicinity forecast to receive 2 to 4 inches, are not.

Intense snowfall rates will cause snow to rapidly pile up on roads, raising the risk of highway shutdowns and stranded motorists.

AccuWeather meteorologists are strongly urging motorists to be off the roads by the time the first flakes of snow start to fall. This will allow snow removal crews to be most efficient.

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