HARRISBURG – With weather forecasting models offering uncertain outcomes for Christmas weekend, PennDOT is urging motorists to closely monitor forecasts and make smart decisions before deciding to travel.

"Anyone with travel plans should be aware that there is the potential for a major winter storm that could have a significant impact on all or parts of Pennsylvania this weekend," said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. "It's essential for motorists to carefully monitor weather forecasts and check conditions along their entire route before traveling this weekend.

"If a winter storm does strike, our advice is to avoid traveling unless absolutely necessary – for your own safety. If you must travel, use common sense, pack an emergency kit, have realistic expectations of road conditions and remember that if winter precipitation is falling, roads will not be completely free of ice and snow."

Although PennDOT crews will be plowing and treating roadways around the clock as necessary, 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. Motorists should remember that interstates and other high-volume expressways are treated first during winter storms. Secondary state routes are a lower priority and during severe winter storms, deeper accumulations will occur on these roadways.

"The easiest way for motorists to avoid having a crash or getting or stranded is to stay off the roads when common sense dictates that you should," Biehler said. "Remember: we can't plow it if you're stuck in it."

Although PennDOT recommends not traveling during winter storms, motorists can check road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of state roads by calling 511 or visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, average traffic speeds on urban interstates and access to more than 500 traffic cameras. The 511 site also provides easy-to-use, color-coded winter road conditions for all interstates and other routes covered in the 511 reporting network. Regional Twitter alerts are also available 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.

For more winter driving tips and information on how PennDOT treats winter storms, visit www.dot.state.pa.us/winter.