For Many, Drive Home Became A Nightmare

November 17, 2018

In the time it would take Dave Fortin to reach Jim Thorpe from Dickson City on a nice day, he managed Thursday to make it from the bottom of an Interstate 81 on-ramp to the top.

The 34-year-old Kingston man’s commute home from the Midvalley was just beginning.

“It took me five hours to get to Kingston from Dickson City,” Fortin said.

His frustration echoed up and down Northeast Pennsylvania, a day after hundreds of drivers struggled through an autumn storm that dropped roughly a foot of snow and overmatched many vehicles. Traffic ground to a standstill for hours as police, tow companies and plow trucks struggled to keep up with the storm. Interstates and highways more closely resembled parking lots.

Some drivers abandoned their stuck vehicles, causing a cascade of problems for those trying to get the roads clear.

“People literally abandoned their cars and went God knows where,” Fortin said.

Through midnight, 9.4 inches of snow fell at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, according to the National Weather Service. That was a record for Nov. 15, eclipsing 6 inches on the date in 1906.

“Pretty impressive for mid-November,” AccuWeather senior metrologist Dan Pydynowski said.

The storm will enter the books as at least the third-biggest November snowfall since record keeping began locally in 1901. When snowfall totals from Friday are added, the storm could move up to No. 2 all-time. The biggest November storm on record was Thanksgiving Day in 1971, when the region was slammed with 18.5 inches of snow.

“Basically, what it comes down to was nobody was prepared,” Trooper Bob Urban, a state police spokesman said. “All the vehicles I attended to on patrol — every single one — had bald tires.”

Urban later tweeted a picture of bald tires, worn to the point of exposed wires, and wrote, “if your tires look like this, your vehicle should not be on the road!”

“Now is the time to check your tires and replace them for future storms,” he said.

The state Department of Transportation said that they did pretreat roads with brine ahead of the storm and had crews start salting and plowing roads once the snow began.

Fast falling snow — as much as 2 inches an hour — and the timing of the storm’s arrival at rush hour put the pieces in place for a traffic nightmare.

Towing companies, the state police and PennDOT managed to get the interstates clear close to midnight, Urban said.

Pydynowski said a whopper of a snowstorm early in the season doesn’t necessarily mean a snow-heavy winter. AccuWeather’s long-range team predicted a fairly typical Northeast Pennsylvania winter awaits, with average precipitation.

“Even if the rest of the winter is relatively unimpressive ... we’ve got a little snow in the bank so to speak,” Pydynowski said. “We’re off to a fast start.”

DAVID SINGLETON, staff writer, contributed to this report.

Contact the writer:


570-348-9144, @jkohutTT

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