Plow crews and emergency responders were busy this weekend as the first big storm of the season blanketed the region with a half-foot of snow.
Snow fell steadily throughout the day, intensifying Saturday afternoon before turning into a wintry mix that was expected to taper off by morning, according to forecasters.
Elyse Colbert, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, said the Altoona area was expected to see between 6 and 8 inches of snow fall with the bulk of it hitting the ground before 6 p.m. Saturday.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Police and emergency personnel respond to an accident on Frankstown Road by Park Avenue on Saturday. Heavy snow in the area resulted in several minor accidents.
The new snow fall brought December's total accumulation for the area to about 9 inches, Colbert said.
"Nothing real significant as far as accumulation [today]," Colbert said, adding any snow would likely come in the form of flurries.
The storm had PennDOT crews working around the clock to keep roads passable, said PennDOT spokeswoman Tara Callahan-Henry.
"Obviously, they can't be everywhere at once," Callahan-Henry said, noting plow crews, working 12-hour shifts, were concentrating on the most heavily traveled roads while also hitting secondary roads.
"Heavily traveled roads are a high priority," said Callahan-Henry, who noted it takes an hour for one of PennDOT's interstate trucks to complete its route. When it snows as it did Saturday, it's not possible to keep roads completely clear of ice and snow, but crews would work overnight and into today, she said.
By Saturday evening, Interstate 99 had its speed limit reduced to 45 mph, the case for most major highways throughout Penn
sylvania, according to PennDOT.
Sunshine ahead of the storm did allow PennDOT to pre-treat roads such as I-99 before the first flakes fell, giving crews a head start with the snow that piled up faster than plows could make their rounds.
Snow-covered roads were to blame for traffic accidents throughout the day, most notably a two-vehicle accident on Sugar Run Road in Allegheny Township that killed two people.
Most accidents were minor, police reported.
"We had typical weather-related situations," said Altoona police Sgt. Mike Sapienza, who noted police were kept busy mostly with accidents, all minor fender-benders.
Police in Altoona did make one drunken driving arrest about 3 p.m., Sapienza said, but apart from that, the storm was rather uneventful.
Logan Township police Chief Ron Heller said the township had no accidents to report as of Saturday evening.
"We had a couple of calls," said Heller. "Someone was irate with one of the snow plows. Turns out was drunk and was told to go back inside his house."
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.