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The big three!

Published January 18. 2011 05:00PM

A winter storm system that moved through the region, dropping snow, sleet and freezing rain overnight and this morning, forced many area schools to close and caused tricky travel conditions for motorists during their commutes.

The storm started around midnight, leaving behind a couple inches of snow across Carbon and Schuylkill counties before the changeover to sleet and freezing rain.

Ronald Yurchak, official weather observer for the National Weather Service in Tamaqua, reported that as of 7:30 a.m., a total of two inches of snow and sleet fell in the Tamaqua area. That equates to .32 inches of water content.

At Central Carbon Municipal Authority in Lehighton, a total of two inches of snow and sleet also fell overnight and early this morning.

The changeover from snow to sleet occurred around 5 a.m., but PennDOT road crews, which had been treating the roads since before midnight, were out in force all night, making sure major highways and interstates were passable this morning.

Sean Brown, safety press officer for PennDOT, said that the department was well prepared before the storm, and ready when it started.

"This is a tricky storm," he said this morning. "We hit our major roads first - the interstates and major highways -but because it is snow and ice, we had to do a combination of plowing and treating the roadways with anti-skid material and salt."

He noted that they have not observed any major incidents since the storm started, but he urged everyone to drive with caution.

"Hopefully people are realizing to avoid travel if at all possible, but if you must go out, slow down and give yourself some more time," he said.

As a precaution, PennDOT reduced the speed limits on many major state highways, including interstates 78, 80, 81, and 380; and US-22, to 45 MPH.

Officials in Carbon, Schuylkill and Northampton counties, echoed Brown's thoughts, reporting that not many incidents were reported overnight or during the early morning hours. A few minor incidents, including a vehicle that went off the road and into a ditch in Nesquehoning, were reported during the early morning commute.

"All has been quiet," was the usual response from area police departments and 911 communications centers.

All schools in Carbon and Schuylkill counties, as well Northern Lehigh and Northwestern Lehigh school districts in Lehigh County and Pleasant Valley in Monroe County were closed today as a result of the storm.

The National Weather Service forecasts that the storm should cause less of a headache as motorists make their commute home this evening. Temperatures are expected to rise above freezing.

This evening calls for a 40 percent chance of rain, mainly after 10 p.m.

Showers are possible Wednesday morning and early afternoon, followed by cloudy skies and temperatures near 40. Wednesday night may have some stray flurries, but will be partly cloudy with a low around 17.

Another chance of snow is possible on Friday, as meteorologists are watching a storm system that may work its way into the area for this weekend.

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