Latest snow storm pelts region

More snow battered the region Thursday and overnight, making for a dangerous commute and sending students home early from school.

John LaCorte, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, said a band of heavy snow sat over much of west-central Pennsylvania Thursday, bringing snowfalls that accumulated between 1 and 2 inches per hour in some parts of the county.

Blair, Bedford, Cambria and Centre counties were all under a winter storm warning from the NWS until midnight today.

Another, smaller storm system will move in tonight, LaCorte said, but residents shouldn’t expect the same heavy snow.

“We’re not expecting much from the next system that comes through,” he said. “It looks like a much weaker system.”

Dan Boyles, director of the Blair County Emergency Management Agency, said Altoona wasn’t hit much harder than anticipated, but some outlying regions, like Roaring Spring, felt the effects of the storm more strongly.

He said emergency responders got out in front of the storm, which helped prevent major damage. A lack of ice, he said, also helped keep power lines and tree limbs intact.

Boyles said he thinks drivers were paying more attention to the conditions, as well.

“We’ve had very little accidents, considering two weeks ago we were inundated with them,” Boyles said.

A number of local communities declared snow emergencies Thursday, including Mount Union, Martinsburg, State College and Huntingdon. Bedford County also declared one. The state itself has been under an emergency declaration since the last snow storm, Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday at a press conference.

Penn State campuses at University Park and Altoona both canceled classes early.

PennDOT Spokeswoman Tara Callahan-Henry said drivers were plowing for much of the day, but because it can take up to two hours to complete one plow route, roads could not be kept completely bare for long.

She also said that drivers need to remember to give plows room to operate, and to avoid passing them.

“People will go past a plow train and pass on the shoulder, but the safest place is to be behind a truck,” Henry said. “I know they do go at slower speeds, but they’re out there for our safety.”

She said that PennDOT drivers are working shifts of longer than 12 hours, at times, to ensure that roads are as clear as possible.

PennDOT does focus on interstates and expressways first, she said, but will reach all state roads as the storm goes on.

“We obviously can’t be in all places at one time,” Henry said.

All state roads in the local area had reduced speeds as the snow continued to fall.

In heavy snow, Henry said people should try and stay at home, if possible, but if they have to go out it is important to drive slowly and to lengthen their following distance to help prevent accidents. And, she said, as soon as wipers go on, the headlights should to.

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer