WILKES-BARRE — It looks like the groundhog was right — we’re in for six more weeks of winter, starting with winter storms this week.
The snow began to fall early on Monday morning, slowed the morning commute to a crawl and did not taper off until mid-afternoon.
WNEP Meteorologist Tom Clark said up to 3 inches fell in the Wilkes-Barre area.
It looks like Monday was just the beginning of a string of winter weather events that will hit the Wyoming Valley this week.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for Wilkes-Barre until 4 p.m. today. Then a winter storm watch is also set to go into effect late tonight through Wednesday evening.
Clark said Wednesday’s snowfall will likely start before daybreak and should taper off by dinner time. While the NWS said total accumulation could range from 6 to 12 inches, Clark predicted anywhere from 3 to 8 inches of snow, along with the possibility of sleet around sunrise Wednesday.
“It’ll be snowing before daybreak, so the morning commute will be greatly impacted,” he said.
This week’s blast of winter weather is due to the southern branch of the jet stream becoming more active as opposed to the polar branch. Clark said the southern branch is coming closer to Pennsylvania, bringing moisture and a southwest-to-northeast storm track.
Wednesday will not be the only chance for severe winter weather this week. That southern branch of the jet steam will produce another storm that is expected to hit the area on Sunday afternoon into the evening hours. Though it is early for predictions, Clark said up to a foot of snow is possible.
Though the Wyoming Valley is entering the latter part of winter, Clark said February can be an “explosive” month for winter storms. “That’s typical for February,” he said. “February is infamous for snowstorms.”
Affecting the roadways
Monday morning’s snowfall caused some crashes and resulted in a speed 45 mph speed limit on the Turnpike and interstates 80 and 81.
PennDOT spokesman James May said the department’s personnel were prepared and by the time the “first flake fell,” crews were out plowing. “This has been a very rapid accumulation of snow,” May said.
In Luzerne County, May said, 74 trucks were out treating 2,289 snow-lane miles on Monday. In Lackawanna County, 51 trucks were treating 1,564 snow-lane miles.
Heavy snowfall, May said, is not as bad as freezing rain. He said crews will often pre-treat roads before it snows to help snow melt on the roadways. If it rains beforehand, he said, the pre-treatment can be washed away.
With the threat of additional snowfall throughout the week, May said crews will continue to work to make roadways “passable.” He clarified that “passable” may not mean they are entirely clear, but driveable.