A strong winter storm that blew into the area late Tuesday night left much of the TIMES NEWS coverage area dealing with a slushy, snowy commute Wednesday morning.

Forecasters called for three to five inches of snow late last night, changing over to sleet and freezing rain after midnight. A steady rain was then forecast to move through the area early this morning as temperatures rose into the 40s. By 6 a.m., a heavy wet snow nearly five inches deep covered the majority of the area, and the changeover from sleet to a steady rain was beginning to occur.

According to the National Weather Service, five inches of snow fell in the Lake Harmony area before the changeover; while according to Ronald Yurchak, a National Weather Service observer in the Tamaqua area, four inches of snow fell around Tamaqua before rain mixed in. He added that it was a total of 1.15 inches of water.

Streets in boroughs and townships were slush-covered for the early morning commute, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation kept a good handle on highways. Many motorists had to put up with the hassle of shoveling this morning, removing a snow/ice mixture from their cars, sidewalks and driveways before being able to leave for work. But other than that few traffic problems were reported.

One minor accident was reported along Routes 93 and 209 around 7:30 a.m. A snow plow backed into a vehicle.

The Rush Township Police closed Hometown Hill, SR 309, around 2 a.m. after a number of trucks became stuck on the northbound lane of 309. Hometown and Tamaqua Fire Police controlled traffic for the duration.

Spotty power outages throughout the area were also reported on the PPL Electric Utilities Outage Center Web site. A total of eight PPL Electric customers in Jim Thorpe, two in Lehigh Township, four in West Penn Township, 43 in Chestnuthill Township, and 541 in Eldred Township were without power this morning.

The official beginning of winter is still 13 days away, Dec. 21.

Because of the storm, many of the schools in Carbon and Schuylkill counties operated on two-hour delays; while most schools in Monroe County, including Pleasant Valley, were closed. The Jim Thorpe Area School District, including St. Joseph Regional Academy, were also closed for the day. Lehigh Carbon Community College also operated on a modified schedule, opening offices at 9 a.m. and beginning classes at 9:30.

According to the National Weather Service Web site, rain is expected to taper off this afternoon and turn to mostly cloudy skies this evening with a slight chance of snow showers. A west wind around 18 mph with possible gusts up to 40 mph is expected to bring a much chillier Thursday as temperatures reach only into the high 20s.