Nor’easter Nightmare: Thursday’s Snowstorm Took Many By Surprise
Kingston Twp. police Chief Michael Moravec was driving back from a Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission meeting in Harrisburg on Thursday and it took him 9½ hours to get home.
He was among thousands of people stuck in gridlock traffic and whose commute turned into a nightmare as cars and tractor-trailers got stuck when the region was hammered with a storm that brought snow, rain and ice.
“It was as frustrating for me as it was for all the other people. I know how these people felt trying to get home,” Moravec said Friday. “It was something that was forecast for days, but had I known the roads were going to be that bad, I should not have gone to Harrisburg. I didn’t expect it to be nearly as bad as it was.”
According to Back Mountain Fire/EMS, multiple cars spun out on state Route 309 between Carverton Road and Center Street causing gridlock.
Multiple vehicles also were stuck between Carverton Road and Harris Hill Road and Kingston Twp. police were not able to immediately get up Carverton Road to assist anyone.
Moravec said two vehicles were stuck in the rock cut area and he was among the drivers stuck in traffic. A tractor trailer also was stuck diagonally, which blocked Route 309, he said.
“All the weight was in the trailer and once it started sliding, there was nowhere to go,” he said. “He was just stuck and blocking the highway.”
While Moravec was struck in traffic, he called Sgt. Martin Maransky, who was later able to help get the vehicles moving with assistance from others from Kingston Twp. and Luzerne police departments. No one was injured, Moravec said.
“Then we had to deal with the sheer volume of traffic. Thousands of cars were stopped,” Moravec said. “I thought maybe I would pull over and get off and exit, and when it was going pretty good, what a heartbreaking experience it was to get off that exit and see that long red ribbon of lights. I said, ‘This is not going to be good.’”
According to Back Mountain Fire/EMS, it was difficult for the plows to get through with disabled vehicles everywhere.
“I stopped counting after I saw about 18 vehicles stuck on the sides of roadways with spinning tires,” Moravec said. “With the elevation changes, there were more icy conditions.”
By 9:45 p.m., traffic diminished significantly, Moravec said. Crews went back out on Friday at 4 a.m. to clear the roads, he said.
Moravec said after his and others’ long commutes, it won’t seem as bad if they have to wait in traffic for an hour in the future. After the experience, many are now like “traffic veterans,” he said.
As a result of Thursday’s storm, Luzerne County Transportation Authority suspended its normal bus routes during the storm but bus and van operators, dispatchers, mechanics and management officials worked late into the night making sure people got where they needed to go.
LCTA executive director Norm Gavlick said he drove some people who needed rides, including taking a man to Motel 6 in Wilkes-Barre Twp. to stay for the night.
LCTA staff were at the intermodal transportation center in Wilkes-Barre last night making sure people got home in buses, vans or personal vehicles.
“We didn’t leave anyone stranded. We never officially stopped our service,” Gavlick said. “We were out making sure everyone got connections or at least close to where they were going.”
Some bus drivers were stuck in different areas like Laflin, Plains Twp. and the Hanover Industrial Park and other drivers came to assist, Gavlick said.
Drivers reported for work early Friday morning and LCTA continued its normal bus service at 10 a.m. Friday. Gavlick said they waited for the roads to be cleared to send them.
He said the drivers and other staff were “phenomenal” throughout the storm.
“They know the passengers,” he said. “They were determined not to leave anyone behind.”
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