We still have vivid memories of the Valentine's Day storm of 2007 that dumped snow, sleet and freezing rain on Pennsylvania, causing then Gov. Ed Rendell to declare a statewide disaster emergency in the state.At the height of the storm, a 4-to-6-inch layer of ice coated the roadways, causing them to became rock-hard when temperatures plunged overnight. There were incredible pictures of some of the hundreds of tractor-trailers and cars frozen in place on the turnpike and interstates. Many motorists had to be rescued after running out of fuel or having their fuel frozen.A day after the crippling storm, National Guardsmen in Humvees were still hauling food, fuel and baby supplies to stranded motorists on a 50-mile stretch of I-78 between Allentown and Harrisburg.Extreme weather events like this give testimony to the unpredictable winters in the Northeast. The Valentine's Day storm last week once again caused havoc on our major roadways, backing up traffic on the turnpike outside Philly for miles. The largest was a chain-reaction turnpike pileup in Chester County where the road took on the look of a hockey rink.At 6 a.m. Friday, turnpike officials lifted the speed restrictions that were put in effect after Thursday's nor'easter dumped heavy snow on southeastern Pa. With roads still slick, that decision was a recipe for disaster.Drivers couldn't avoid crashing into the wreckage, causing numerous accidents. One motorist heading to work told how cars in front of him began bouncing into the center barrier, hitting other vehicles, sliding across three lanes of traffic, and then hitting other cars.Highway officials could be blamed for lifting speed restrictions too early but motorists who were traveling too fast for the conditions are also at fault. Much of that road circus we saw might have been avoided if more people had just used common sense.
By Jim Zbick