Snow blankets Somerset County, causing problems for motorists and pedestrians

February 21, 2019

All schools and several businesses closed Wednesday as about a half-foot of snow and icy winds pelted Somerset County. Some schools even announced a two-hour delay for Thursday classes.

Road crews were out early Wednesday, maintaining primary roads around 4:30 a.m., according to Joe Kelemen, Somerset County maintenance manager.

He said the storm started in the southern end of the county and gradually moved north.

“Snow was pretty steady if not heavy at times,” he said.

Kelemen said that having schools canceled and many businesses closed allowed plow truck drivers to try to keep up with the snow.

“It allows the operators to get in and get it cleaned up and take care of the roads so everybody can travel in a passable manner,” he said.

Kelemen said that maintaining the new Route 219 has not created any challenges for his crews.

“We have trucks dedicated to that route, basically assigned to do that,” he said.

At 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had 43 trucks utilizing 11 salt stockpiles in Somerset County.

“We did allow some of the snow to stay on the road this morning for the changeover,” he said. “That will help us with the freezing rain. We’re always adapting to what Mother Nature is throwing at us.”

Shortly before lunch, National Weather Service observer A.J. Jarosz had measured about 6 inches of snow in Glencoe.

“I had 2 inches of ice and this is on top of it,” he said. “This is just beautiful. I like the snow. I do not like frozen stuff.”

AccuWeather senior meteorologist Paul Walker said that 5 to 7 inches fell in the Somerset area.

“It looks like snow is coming to an end here, and we’re going to get some light freezing rain and drizzle the rest of the day,” he said around 1 p.m. “Temperatures are slowly going to come up to the freezing mark.”

As many residents were driving to work Wednesday morning, the snow fell in a veil of large, fluffy flakes and made it difficult to see, several people told the Daily American.

At 7:30 a.m. PennDOT restricted speeds on several highways. Route 219 was reduced to 45 mph. According to AccuWeather, the precipitation changed over to light sleet at 12:30 p.m.

The sleet and slush also seemed to cause problems off the roadways as hospital officials reported a significant increase in the number of patients suffering from fall injuries.

Spokespeople from MedExpress, UPMC Somerset and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center all said that their facilities and hospital emergency rooms were so busy with fall injuries Wednesday that they couldn’t get a proper count of all the fall patients they had seen.

“There was quite a few people in the emergency department related to falls today,” said UPMC Somerset marketing and communications director Sarah Deist. “Unfortunately, they’re really slammed.”

Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center marketing and communications director Emily Korns said Conemaugh had also seen a significant increase in the number of slip-and-fall patients Wednesday because of the icy conditions.

And Somerset MedExpress Manager Jason Weber reported that his center has seen an uptick in fall injuries since last week.

“After a slip or fall, it’s always a good idea to visit a medical professional,” he said in an email. “Many slips and falls may just cause bruises and bumps, but be on the lookout for broken bones, sprains and strains, cuts and scrapes — all which may require additional treatment.”

“Also, keep in mind that even indoor floors can be slick, especially near entrances where folks have snowy, wet shoes.”

Korns added that falls outside can be especially dangerous if they happen in isolated areas where a person might fall and be unable to get help.

“They can lead to hypothermia if that someone becomes immobile,” she said. “And this icy weather is particularly challenging for the geriatric population.”