Was PennDOT ready for Tuesday's snow?

It wasn't a major storm. Only about three inches of snow fell on most of the area.

Yet, there were a lot of accidents because of snow-covered roads. Accidents happened on Routes 443, 54, 248, Pohopoco Drive.

We realize that any time there's snow falling, people sometimes don't drive in it properly or don't have the right equipment on their car and accidents occur.

But one incident which was especially outstanding happened in Summit Hill. It makes us question how prepared PennDOT was for the snow.

Several Panther Valley school buses, at least some of them hauling elementary and kindergarten students, were stopped at the top of the Lansford-Summit Hill hill (Route 902). The drivers of the buses wouldn't go down the hill because it was snow covered.

Reportedly the situation was reported to PennDOT by private citizens. It wasn't until well over an hour later that the hill was made passable for the buses, according to the reports we've received. For that duration, the children were stuck inside the buses.

We understand the children were inside the buses on the hill for close to two hours.

We don't blame the bus drivers. In fact, it's commendable that they didn't put the youngsters in jeopardy by trying to go down the slippery hill. We applaud all their efforts at keeping the children safe.

The drivers couldn't take the youths back to the bus stops because the parents wouldn't be aware of it.

We don't blame the school district. It didn't start snowing hard until after 6 a.m. and the roads didn't get bad until later, which made it too late for a delay or cancellation of classes.

Why did it take PennDOT so long to rescue these buses? There were at least four buses, possibly more, stuck at the top of the hill - on a state highway.

We realize PennDOT has a standard procedure for plowing, with interstates getting priority and the most heavily traveled roads getting secondary treatment. Lesser highways are lower on the priority list.

The hill on which the buses were stuck intersects with Route 209. This is a very heavily traveled highway in Carbon County. Do PennDOT crews maintain it only every few hours during a snow fall?

Local PennDOT officials should be made to answer for having such a long delay for the stranded buses. Taxpayer dollars fund the operations of PennDOT and the citizens deserve adequate service.

In fact, the local state representatives should become involved and find out why the delay was so long - and do their best to make sure it doesn't happen again.

There's no reason that when several buses are hung up in the same area, that the response time should take so long to provide assistance.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]