Punxsutawney Phil has some explaining to do. Rather than spring arriving early, as Phil predicted Feb. 2, National Weather Service forecasters Tuesday upgraded the Laurel Highlands and south-central mountains area from a winter storm watch to winter storm warning, which will remain in effect until 10 p.m. today.
Kristina Pydynowski, Accuweather senior meteorologist, said snow was expected to arrive by late Tuesday evening and continue falling throughout the morning, tapering off in the afternoon.
Total accumulation of 4 to 8 inches is possible, she said, although Altoona likely won't see numbers at the higher end of the spectrum.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Equipment operator Ed Watchey looks on as PennDOT diesel mechanic Bob O’Dellick, both of Altoona, makes some final preparations to Watchey’s truck late Tuesday afternoon at the Hollidaysburg PennDOT maintenence department garage. Watchey is just one of the drivers expecting to be out clearing roads this morning.
"Up toward I-80, you'd be hard-pressed to get 3 inches," she said, while those near the Maryland border could see more than 6 inches and as much as a foot of snow.
PennDOT Community Relations Coordinator Tara Callahan-Henry said crews were putting down anti-ice material in Blair, Bedford, Fulton and Huntingdon counties in preparation for the snowfall.
Roads in Cambria and Somerset counties already have enough residual anti-skid and didn't require more, although Callahan-Henry said plow drivers still have been working "without a break" in the area for more than two weeks.
Callahan-Henry said workers will monitor the weather until the storm begins and can run two 12-hour shifts to cover the 24-hour winter storm-warning period.
"The crews will be out," she said.
National Weather Service forecasts set a chance of snowfall of 50 percent for Tuesday night, increasing to 70 percent for this morning before falling to 50 percent again for this evening, with wind gusts up to 15 miles per hour.
The NWS warned weather conditions could reduce driving visibility and heavy, wet snow and gusty winds could cause power outages.
Luckily, Pydynowski said, warmer weather in the coming days could start the melting process not long after the snow begins to lay, although light flurries are possible through Friday.
Toward the weekend, temperatures will increase and hit about 50 degrees Sunday and into Monday, she said.
But we're not out of the woods yet.
The storm is an example of the area transitioning into spring, with mild and cold air battling, which creates changing temperatures and conditions, she said.
The upcoming mild spell will last into next week, but snow could return soon after.