Crews worked throughout the night Wednesday to clear area roadways after a powerful winter storm dropped about half a foot of snow, but the "quick bursts" of snow followed by a mixture of rain and sleet kept road crews busy well into Thursday evening plowing area streets.
"They're probably about 90 percent completed at this point," said Al Hykes, Altoona Department of Public Works highway superintendent, late Thursday afternoon. "We're hoping to have everything wrapped up by midnight."
Road crews began by clearing the snow emergency and bus routes, heavily-congested traffic areas and near schools, Hykes said.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Rebecca Brown shares a sled ride with her son, Michael, 7, both of Altoona, at Baker Mansion on Thursday afternoon.
Once the main routes were cleared of snow and treated with salt and anti-skid mixture, crews began to clear out the remaining "low priority" neighborhood streets.
"I understand it's not a low-priority for people that live there," Hykes said.
A dozen plow trucks were deployed in the city, with crews working alternating 12-hour shifts during the storm, Hykes said.
Speed restrictions enacted Wednesday along sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and all of Interstate 99 were lifted Thursday, officials said.
The speed limit was reduced to 45 mph on both roadways and other major travel arteries throughout central Pennsylvania during the height of the storm.
Multiple vehicle crashes plagued area roads and highways during the storm.
The storm dumped anywhere from 6 to 7 inches in Altoona, AccuWeather Meteorologist Carl Erickson said.
An additional 1 to 3 inches are expected on Saturday, Erickson said.
Blair County Airport Manager Tim Hite said Wednesday's storm caused multiple flight delays.
"Blowing wind and snow, the whole gamut," Hite said. "It caused all kinds of problems."
Passengers were given advance notice of flight delays and cancellations, and no one was stranded in the airport's terminal waiting for a flight that never arrived, Hite said.
Although the runways were cleared by Thursday afternoon, Hite said delays later in the evening could be possible if weather conditions did not improve.
Municipal road crews continue to keep an eye on the changing weather conditions ahead of the weekend, said Lonnie Batdorf, Carrolltown Borough manager.
"We watch the road conditions, and we try to do this on an as-needed basis," Batdorf said.
A light cover of snowfall blanketed some of the borough's 20 miles of roadways during parts of the storm - something that is unavoidable with only two trucks and a two-man road crew, Batdorf said.
Plow trucks resumed operations at 4:30 a.m. Thursday and worked throughout the afternoon, Batdorf said. Both drivers were expected to be back on the roads to clear any additional streets by 5:30 p.m., he said.
But the drivers' schedules were less about budget constraints on men and material and more about keeping the drivers safe and maximizing their efficiency, Batdorf said.
Continually "chasing snowflakes" and salting roadways throughout the storm is a waste of salt and anti-skid resources, he said.
"That's a waste of material, if you're going to keep plowing it off," Batdorf said.
By Thursday evening many area roadways were returning to passable conditions, with only smaller streets still covered, said Dan Penatzer, Ebensburg Borough manager.
"It was just coming down so fast [Wednesday] that you don't normally salt during it," Penatzer said.
Residents could be seen shoveling out driveways and sidewalks and around mailboxes and newspaper tubes as the weather cleared Thursday.
Lows in the mid-20s this weekend could mean ice on roadways, and drivers should continue to use caution, PennDOT officials said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.