Roads still messy, many public offices closed; low temps big worry in next 24 hours
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
As Chester County digs out from six to eight inches of snow, the concerns now move from clearly icy local roadways and keeping warm — as the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures tonight in the low single digits.
While state and local road crews working to clear roads and hampered by the combination of low temperatures and windy conditions, blowing the fluffy snow around, virtually all public offices are closed today. Chester County closed all offices for the day, and postponed the swearing in of row officers and Court of Common Pleas judges until Monday. Virtually all schools in the county not already on holiday break are closed.
Various local municipalities put their snow emergency plans into effect — most of which involve a ban on street parking to allow for better snow removal — although most of those states of emergency are expected to end by Friday afternoon.
On the good news front, PECO reports minimal disruption of power in Chester County, saying less than 100 homes have lost power during the storm. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reported Friday morning that all storm-related speed restrictions on state highways have been lifted, and restored to their posted limits. However, PennDOT is continuing to treat roadways in the region — as they are not as of Friday morning all cleared. Motorists are urged to use caution.
Numerous car accidents have been reported, and roads are described as being in variable condition — some clear, others not, with the potential for wind-driven snow in many locations.
With the snowfall ended, the big worry turns to excessive cold — even as temperatures peak in the upper teens on Friday, the wind chill will make them feel like their are hovering near zero.
The immediate concerns are for the homeless, seniors and shut-ins who may not have enough heating fuel to keep warm, local officials say.
For the homeless, the next 24 hours are expected to be especially dangerous — and county officials reiterated their concerns about the homeless. They are asking that if you come across a homeless person or anyone else who requires emergency sheltering, that you should contact ConnectPoints at 1-800-935-3181.
According to officials at the Chester County Department of Aging Services, seniors are particularly vulnerable in this sort of weather and should be checked on if they live alone.
The department’s director, Wanda Stonebraker, said members of her staff are calling local senior who are living alone or might otherwise be at risk during winter storms to check on their welfare.
Any senior in need of help can call 610-344-6350 during the day for assistance, or after business hours, call 1-800-564-7000. Calls to the night number will be transferred to Department of Emergency Services and staff members will contact the on-call care manager who will contact the senior and take necessary steps to secure safety.
Stonebreaker is urging seniors to keep plenty of food, water and medication on hand in case of a storm; have a battery-powered radio and flashlight available; keep hydrated; stay indoors when possible; dress in layers if venturing into the cold; avoid work, such as shoveling snow, that stresses the heart; have a cell phone while outside and keep homes well-lit.
For all other residents, the extreme cold has risks as well, whether during snow removal or if your children are out playing.
County residents can check out this guide from the Centers for Disease Control on Extreme Cold Weather Safety Tips; http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/pdf/extreme-cold-guide.pdf (this guide is on the Dept. of Emergency Services website as well – www.chesco.org/des