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Snow and ice headed our way

Published January 31. 2011 05:00PM

Best lay in a supply of rock salt, flashlight batteries and blankets, and plan for plenty of extra time to drive to work tomorrow and Wednesday. National Weather Service forecasters are expecting a vicious storm to lash the area with a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain starting late tonight and lasting through late Wednesday.

The storm is steamrolling in from the Rockies, threatening heavy snow, sleet, freezing rain and possibly tornadoes across a huge swath of states. The storm is expected to blanket the Midwest with heavy, wind-whipped snow.

States along the southernmost tier of the storm - Texas, Louisiana, parts of Tennessee and Alabama - can expect violent thunderstorms and perhaps tornadoes. Farther north, heavy coatings of ice, up to an inch in some areas, are expected to knock out power for thousands of people from Arkansas to Massachusetts, including Pennsylvania.

Locally, we can expect one to three inches of snow starting after 1 a.m. tonight. By Tuesday afternoon, the snow will likely change over to sleet, accumulating to 2-4 inches.

Then, it really gets nasty. Sleet is expected to fall during the evening hours Tuesday, changing to snow and freezing rain at night, accumulating to between one-quarter and a half-inch. Temperatures are expected to hold at 27 degrees during the day and 25 degrees at night.

The freezing rain will continue through Wednesday, forecasters say, with temperatures rising to about 34 degrees in the Lehighton area. The rain is expected to end in snow showers late Wednesday.

Thursday is looking cold at about 24 degrees, and partly sunny. The temperature is expected to plunge to 7 degrees Thursday night.

On Monday, the state Department of Transportation was gearing up to keep highways drivable during the storm.

"Our crews will be getting the trucks ready for the storm - chains on tires, fueled up, and ready with salt," said spokesman Sean Brown. "We will be running on 12-hour shifts with a full complement of drivers. Basically, we will be ready to go when the storm comes."

The heavy accumulation of ice may mean downed tree limbs and power lines.

PPL spokesman Paul Canevari said the company is "tracking the storm closely so we'll be ready to address any problems that occur. Our crews are geared up and ready to go if we do experience problems."

PPL crews trim trees along power lines to avoid having ice-laden branches fall onto the lines.

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