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Roads departments toiling with snowy conditions

January 16, 2018 News Extra

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Butler Twp road department worker Jason Ziegler cleans the plow on his truck at the Butler Twp salt shed on Duffy rd on Tuesday January 16, 2018.

For the second straight day, snow caused havoc for drivers around the county.

Weather conditions closed some schools and delayed others. Emergency responders were busy with numerous car accidents and stuck vehicles.

The forecast for Wednesday did not include more precipitation, but temperatures were expected to dip. For the Butler area, the National Weather Service was predicting a Wednesday high of 17 degrees and wind chill values as low as minus 8. Wednesday night's forecast included a low of 9 degrees and wind chills as low as minus 4 degrees.

Road departments busy

When snow is coming down, or is in the forecast, the state Department of Transportation dispatches trucks from its building on New Castle Road in Butler Township, said assistant manager Bruce Hartman.

They have a fleet 40 trucks, which cover state roads around the county, including Route 8, Route 422, Interstate 79 and Route 356. If necessary, all 40 trucks will go out at once and they usually have a driver shift change at midnight, Hartman said.

At the PennDOT website 511pa.com, residents can keep track of weather and traffic alerts and see where plow trucks are plowing in real time using an interactive map.

In Butler Township, the streets department has been busier than it was last year, said Tom Knights, superintendent of public works.

The township has a healthy stockpile of salt and has 14 plow trucks. They send out seven trucks when it starts snowing and they can bring in extra manpower and send out all 14 if necessary, Knights said.

“Thus far we've had no major breakdowns that have really affected our response time. We've had a lot of call-outs, a little higher volume than last year,” he said.

Township and city officials both urge residents not to shovel or plow snow into the road.

“If we've already treated a road and been past a driveway and then a property owner brings snow into the road, it might be a few hours before we come by again and it could freeze into a block of ice, which is a hazard,” Knights said.

According to a memo on its website, the city streets department covers 53 miles of residential streets and 38 miles of alleys. They prioritize roads that are used by ambulances going to the hospital, roads that have hills and roads that have a lot of traffic.

The city streets department also requests that residents park as closely to the curb as possible and pull side mirrors inward on the side of the vehicle exposed to traffic.

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