Snow Squalls an Unpredictable Winter Hazard ~ PennDOT Urges Motorists to Slow Down in Squalls

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PennDOT Reduces Speed Limits on Several Area Roadways
Due to the severity of the winter storm, PennDOT is temporarily reducing the speed limit on several roadways in northwest Pennsylvania.
PennDOT is urging motorists to avoid unnecessary travel but those who must head out will see speeds reduced to 45 mph on the following highways:
Interstate 90,
Interstate 79,
and Interstate 80.
Although PennDOT crews have been 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.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reminds motorists to always be alert for sudden snow squalls while traveling during the winter.
“Sudden and heavy snow squalls are one of the biggest challenges that motorists and PennDOT crews face during the winter months,” said Bill Petit, executive of PennDOT’s northwestern district. Motorists need to be alert for sudden squalls that can an quickly cause roads to become snow covered.
In addition to snow covered roads, heavy squalls can also cause whiteout conditions virtually eliminating a driver’s visibility. If motorists do encounter snow squalls while traveling, 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.
• Always buckle up and never drink and drive.
Petit urged motorists to use extra caution when traveling during winter weather, especially for areas that are known for frequent snow squalls. “Ultimately, as drivers, we are all responsible for our own safety and the safety of those motorists around us,” Petit said. “Motorists should plan extra travel time, reduce speeds and drive with extreme caution when traveling on snow-covered roads.”
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 700 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
The department also asks motorists to allow plenty of space when driving near plow trucks. Also, for their own safety and the safety of plow operators, motorists should never attempt to pass a truck while it is plowing or spreading winter materials.
PennDOT reminds motorists to pack an emergency kit for their vehicles. A basic kit should include non-perishable food, water, blanket, small shovel and warm clothes. When preparing an emergency kit, motorists should take into account special needs of passengers such as baby food, pet supplies or medications and pack accordingly.
Also citizens are reminded that downloadable materials, including home and car emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, are available at www.ReadyPA.org or by calling 1-888-9-READYPA. Citizens can find information about getting involved in local emergency response efforts and other volunteer opportunities through the Web site or the toll-free line.
For more winter driving tips and information on how PennDOT treats winter storms, visit www.dot.state.pa.us/winter. Follow PennDOT on Twitter at www.twitter.com/511PaErie.

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