Storms Blast State, High Winds Follow
Undated (AP) _ Snow and bitter cold followed gale-force winds and summer-like thunderstorms across the state, and temperatures were expected to remain below freezing at least until the weekend.
The wind that was clocked at 90 mph Tuesday in Lancaster and close to that force in other areas of the state appeared to have diminished early today.
″It’s been dying down, it’s nothing like we had early Tuesday,″ Mark Frazier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, said today.
Forecasters in Philadelphia said the winds were blowing up to 15 mph there, but were not expected to get stronger. The winds were about the same in Pittsburgh, where the wind chill factor was one degree at midnight Tuesday, Frazier said.
Earlier in the day, trees and utility poles were knocked down, window screens were pulled from their moorings and jackknifed tractor-trailers blocked traffic as a front passed.
Linda Dressler was trying to hold closed the front door at Herr’s Office Products in Lancaster when the storm hit. A blast of air from an open garage door at the back of the building kept the doors open.
″I couldn’t even hold it shut, the wind was so strong going through the store,″ she said.
That was when a display window shattered.
″All of a sudden, it blew up, blew out. There was glass everywhere,″ she said.
Wind gusts of 87 mph were reported in Gettysburg and gusts of 70 mph were reported in Harrisburg.
In Erie, the wind reached only 50 mph, but was strong enough to reduce visibility and cause snow drifts near Edinboro that were 12 inches deep, said Tom Paone, a weather service meteorologist at Erie International Airport.
State police said traffic on Interstate 90, which links Erie to Cleveland and Buffalo, was restricted to one lane in each direction from noon until 6 p.m. because of jackknifed tractor-trailers.
Elsewhere in western Pennsylvania, temperatures dropped quickly while the wind played havoc with power lines.
The temperature at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport dropped 33 degrees in two hours.
In Cambria County, about 2,500 students in the Forest Hills School District went home early after winds caused a power outage at a middle school.
And about 1,000 Washington County homes were without power Tuesday morning.
″The wind is our biggest enemy in these things, much more so than the lightning,″ said Edward Sehon, a Duquesne Light spokesman.
In eastern Pennsylvania, the wind picked up a barn and dropped it on the east lane of U.S. Route 322, near Blue Ball, Lancaster County, according to a witness. Gusts also pushed a utility pole into a house in Colarain Township, Lancaster County, igniting the roof of the home.
In Northumberland County, skirts were blown off several mobile homes, including one that was pushed off its foundation. The storms also threw a trailer home off its foundation near Pine Grove, Schuylkill County.
Winds at the Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport at Avoca were officially clocked at 74 mph. A Cessna 150 flipped over from the runway onto a fence.
According to the weather service, more snow is expected in the state tonight and Thursday, followed by even colder arctic air.
Highs tonight will be 5 to 15 across the state, with periods of snow statewide but more likely in the east.
Thursday will be mostly cloudy with morning snow tapering off to snow showers in the east and just a chance of snow showers in the west. It will be bitterly cold, with highs from 10 to 20.
Continued cold is expected Friday and Sunday with a chance of snow light snow each day. Highs will range from 15 to 25, lows from zero to 15 above.