WAYNE COUNTY—With last weekend's snow dump transitioning to rain and warmer temperatures, an excess of water on roadways threatens to re-solidify into ice as projected temperatures dip below freezing for the rest of the week.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), parts of Wayne County are under a hazardous weather outlook whereby, “Significant rises overnight are expected on area rivers and streams which could lead to ice jams. Localized minor flooding is also possible due to poor drainage.”
According to the NWS, ice jams are caused when ice floating down river get caught on an obstruction, narrow passage or bend in a river, and begins to dam the water. When it finally breaks, it can cause flash flooding.
“Six inch thick ice can destroy large trees and knock houses off their foundations,” states the NWS.
Last year, ice jams caused several issues in northeast Pennsylvania, including destruction of part of Route 170 in Clinton Township.
According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Spokesperson James May, the key road condition to watch out for in the next few days will be “black ice,” thin layers of ice that form when wet portions of the road freeze over.
These spots often look like water.
Additionally, May explained ice can form more quickly on bridges and ramps than other parts of the road.
Other weather related conditions May noted were reports of ice and water washing across roadways.
As of publication time Thursday afternoon, there were no road closures in Wayne County due to weather.
May explained the rain makes road pre-treatment difficult as the water washes away any materials used to prepare the road.
“Freezing rain is the most difficult road condition because we can't pre-treat and it turns to ice right away,” he said.
In anticipation of the impending freeze, trucks are expected to treat the roads when the rain stops.
May noted road pre-treatment differs depending on temperature.
“For temperatures below 15 degrees [Fahrenheit], salt is ineffective,” he said.
During the deep freezes Wayne County experienced after Winter Storm Harper, PennDOT utilized a higher concentration of anti-skid, a mixture of gravel, rock and sand to provide traction on roads too cold to salt.
Driving on ice
Motorists are reminded that the amount of time it takes to stop one's car is lengthened when traveling on ice.
Utilizing studded tires or tire chains during winter can help one find a better grip on slippery roads.
According to Pennsylvania law, tire studs may be used during November 1 of any year and April 15 of the year following.
Studs are not permitted to project beyond two thirty-seconds of an inch of the tire tread.
Tire chains can be used in Pennsylvania on a temporary basis “...during periods of snow and ice emergency if they are in conformance with regulations promulgated by the department.”
Tire chains are required in New York State when an emergency is declared.
Snow and ice build up on vehicles should be removed often from the windows, mirrors, headlights, taillights, turning indicators, roof, hood and trunk of one's car.
According to Pennsylvania law, errant ice or snow from one's vehicle which causes damage, death or injury to another vehicle or person is a ticket-able offense.
Motorists are advised to use caution while out and about during icy conditions.
PennDOT advises motorists to stay with their vehicles should they become stranded and to never abandon it.
Stranded motorists can stay warm by running their engine for a few minutes every hour. If doing so, make sure the tail pipe is clear, and crack the down-wind window.
PennDOT recommends travelers carry an emergency kit in their vehicles in case of an emergency.
Such kits should include flashlights, batteries, a portable crank- or battery-operated radio, jumper cables, a cell phone and charger, a snow shovel, ice scraper, matches and candles, first aid supplies, extra warm clothing and gloves, blankets, sand, bottled water, non-perishable food, and any necessary medications or family-specific items.
PennDOT advises alerting at least one other person of one's travel plans to make locating a stranded driver easier.
Motorists sharing the road with a plow are reminded not to pass it or get between several plows in a plow line.
Information about road conditions and where plows are located is available online at www.511pa.com.
Enforcement from Winter Storm Harper
Enforcement reports from the Pennsylvania State Police note that Troop R, consisting of Wayne, Pike, Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties, had 126 citations and 8 warnings issued during Winter Storm Harper for commercial vehicles driving on restricted roads.
Troop R's number of citations is the second highest of any PSP troop, exceeded only by the 151 issued in Troop N (Carbon, Columbia, Luzerne and Monroe counties).
In total, PSP issued 993 citations and 222 warnings during Winter Storm Harper.
Each violation comes with a $300 fine plus court costs.
—Information from a release was used in this story.