The state Department of Transportation is keeping an eye on the sky and gearing up to tackle the season's first storm, anticipated to dump a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain on our area throughout the weekend.
Forecasts were mixed as of early Thursday, with various weather sources predicting varying amounts of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
How PennDOT will handle the roads "depends on what the storm brings us," said spokesman Sean Brown. "If there's a lot of rain, we don't do much pretreating, because the rain just washes it away. But if it looks like temperatures are cold enough, we will pretreat."
The pretreat is a brine, a salt and water mixture. The water evaporates and the salt helps prevent ice from bonding to road surfaces. Pretreating is done before snow or ice starts to fall.
Workers will be scheduled in 12-hour shifts, so that plows and dump trucks will be on the roads at all times.
"We'll attack the major roads first," Young said. In our area, that means I-80, routes 209, 309, and 903.
"The major throughways are our primary concerns," he said.
Last winter, PennDOT used 652,904 tons of anti-skid and 901,574 tons of salt on highways. The department has at its disposal 2,250 trucks, plows and salt spreaders. It also rents 271 trucks and operators.
PennDOT uses less salt and more anti-skid on rural roads because the salt depends on traffic to be effective.
The National Weather Service anticipates rain to fall tomorrow, with daytime temperatures hovering around 47 degrees. But that changes as cold air moves in later in the day. Snow and sleet are expected late Friday night, some snow Saturday, then the same wintry mix on Sunday and through Sunday night, making for a treacherous Monday morning commute.
As always, higher elevations will see more accumulation of whatever frozen precipitation falls from the sky.