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Whew! 2 feet

Published February 11. 2010 05:00PM

Although folks in our area may have felt like they were in a well-shaken snow globe yesterday, with white-out conditions, heavy snowfall and gusty winds, the Great Blizzard of 2010, well, wasn't one, according to the National Weather Service.

While snowfall ranged from 17.5 to 25.5 inches in Carbon County, from 8.3 to 15 in Monroe and about 24 inches across Schuylkill, it just wasn't the "perfect storm" of factors that would make it a blizzard, said meteorologist Kristin Kline.

To qualify as a blizzard, a storm must deliver sustained or frequent gusts of winds of 35 mph or more. Visibility needs to be a quarter-mile or less, and there needs to be "considerable" falling or blowing snow, Kline said.

"And you need to have those conditions for at least three hours," she said.

At the peak of yesterday's storm, snow fell in Carbon at a rate of about one to two inches an hour.

So, what do folks in our area have to look forward to today as they dig out from yesterday?

"It will be mostly cloudy, then partly sunny, with highs in the upper 20s, a northwest wind at about 15-20 mph with gusting as high as 30 mph," Kline said.

But lest you be disappointed that the storms are over, Sunday into Monday looks promising, although on a smaller scale.

"At this time, it looks like there could be a system that moves in late Sunday night or early Monday. We have a 30 percent chance of snow on Sunday night, then a 40 percent chance on Monday," Kline said.

The low on Sunday night is expected to hover around 10 degrees, and on Monday, in the upper 20s.

Yesterday's storm blacked out power in some areas.

PPL declared itself in a "storm emergency" at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday. As of 9 p.m., 11 customers were out of service in East Penn Township.

The storm left a total of 1,483 customers out of power across the state, mostly in Lehigh County, where there were still 508 homes out of power at 9 p.m. Wednesday. PPL had restored power to 3,733 customers. In Columbia County, 657 PPL customers were in the dark.

The blizzardlike storm also closed down highways.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shut down the entire length of Interstates 76 (the Schuylkill Expressway), 78, 83, 176, 476, 676 and PA 581. I-81 was closed from the Maryland state line to I-80.

The Interstates reopened as of this morning, except for I-78 in Lebanon, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties, said PennDOT spokesman Ron Young. "There is still an issue near Hamburg from drifting, so, for safety, we're going to keep it closed for the time being," he said.

In Carbon, PennDOT had about 20 plows working to clear 275 miles of state-owned roads. Schuylkill County's 608 miles of state roads kept 42 plows busy, Young said.

But think twice about going out for a drive today.

"We're still recommending people, if they can, to stay home," Young said.

Secondary roads may have yet to be plowed, and traffic on both secondary and main roads may have compacted snow, making it even slicker.

"Go slow, if you must drive," Young said. "Be alert for icy spots and wind drifts."

Local emergency management officials took the storm in stride.

When asked if there were many problems during yesterday's storm, Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency director, said the evening was busy with phone calls, but no major problems were reported.

"We were one of the hardest hit counties with the high snowfall totals, but we didn't have any major problems," he said. "I expected possible power outages because the weather services were calling for high winds, but I'm not aware of any situations like that."

One issue that the Carbon County EMA helped with was contacting local fire departments to help nurses get to Blue Mountain Health System to staff the hospital.

He also noted that Carbon County, as well as 13 municipalities declared snow emergencies yesterday to help road crews during the storm.

Nalesnik urges residents to not hinder today's clean up efforts.

"Be careful where you put your vehicles and the snow when you shovel out," he said. "Try to help the crews by staying out of their way.

"The less people on the roads during the clean up, the better. The more traffic that's out there, the more it will hinder the clean up by both the municipalities and PennDOT."

State Rep. Keith McCall's offices in Lansford, Lehighton and Albrightsville will be closed today to reduce traffic and make it easier for emergency crews to remove snow from Wednesday's storm. They will reopen Friday.

In Schuylkill County, Operations and Training Officer John Blickley said most main roads are passable.

The county commissioners declared a snow disaster at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. The designation didn't restrict travel, but allowed emergency personnel to do the jobs more effectively, Blickley said.

A section of Route 61 was shut down between Frackville and Saint Clair, and from Route 895 to the Berks County line.

Blickley said the toughest part of the storm was finding parking areas for traffic diverted from the closed interstates, and emergency officials in Pine Grove opened a warming station at Pine Grove High School for stranded truck drivers.

The station was empty as of 5 a.m. this morning, he said.

"Other than the interstates closing, everything was pretty quiet," Blickley said.

All schools in Carbon are closed; all schools in Schuylkill are closed; Pleasant Valley in Monroe is closed; some area businesses, such as Kids Country Day Care, Little Discoveries Day Care, Tender Heart Learning Center, Growing Place Childcare Center, all on a two-hour delay.

Snow emergencies are in effect in the boroughs of Bowmanstown, East Stroudsburg, Stroudsburg, Summit Hill, and Tamaqua; Carbon County Courthouse closed meaning the Carbon County commissioners meeting has been canceled for today.

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