York County continues to shovel out

Greg Gross

The winter storm that dumped upwards of 31 inches of snow and essentially shuttered York County this past weekend is over.

But Yorkers may be left digging out and public works crews plowing paths for another day or so.

"Our public works crews are dealing with an historic storm, and it's going to take an historic response to get through it," said Carl Lindquist, spokesman for the county. "It's going to take everyone time to dig out of a storm of this magnitude."

As of Sunday afternoon, most York City primary and secondary streets have been opened, said Jim Gross, the public workers director.

But much more work remains for already overworked crews throughout the county.

Work ahead: Gross said he thinks the snow removal will go into Monday morning, with most of the snow being taken care of by the end of the day.

“I'm not saying every alley will be opened up, but most of the neighborhood streets will be opened,” he said.

City crews have been working around the clock since the storm started Friday.

The issue they now face is that plows can't handle the job at hand because of the large amount of snow, forcing crews to turn to front loaders to remove the snow. Gross said the city is renting them as fast as possible to get them out on the streets.

As the city has done after previous snowfalls, crews will use heavy front-end loaders to load any remaining snow in the downtown core into dump trucks to be carted off. But that likely won't happen for a day or so since their top priority is to open streets, he said.

Elsewhere: In neighboring West York, the two-man highway department crew has been working almost around the clock to clear the streets.

As of Sunday afternoon, all streets were clear and the crew, armed with only two plow trucks, has turned its sights to the alleys, said Shelley Metzler, borough council president.

The crew got a slight reprieve from plowing Sunday morning when they had a chance to go home for about seven hours, she said.

"There's only two of them but they're doing a great job," Metzler said. "They have been out since it started."

The streets in Red Lion were also cleared by Sunday afternoon thanks to a likely tired crew of six or seven pubic works employees, said Kelly Henshaw, its borough council president.

"They've been at it, with some breaks, since it started," he said. "All the streets are open."

Henshaw credited the snow emergency, which prevented motorists from parking in certain areas, that was declared before the storm with allowing the crews to do their jobs unhindered.

Despite the ever-increasing number of streets that are being opened, numerous school districts and York County offices and the courts will be closed on Monday.

Snowfall: The storm, dubbed Winter Storm Jonas by The Weather Channel, was undoubtedly one for the record books, but it wasn't record breaking.

It fact, at an average of about 30  inches of snow reported at six sites the county, it comes in third in terms of snowfall, behind the blizzard of 1996, which dumped 31 inches of snow.

"No doubt the snowstorm of 2016 will be one for the history books," said Andy Mussoline, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College

A trained weather reporter two miles south of York recorded 31.5 inches of snow, while someone four miles northeast of the city reported 30.5 inches.

Thirty-one inches was reported in Goldsboro, 26.5 inches of fluffy stuff fell in Dallastown, and someone east of the city reported 30 inches, he said.

"From what I see, this will be the third largest snowfall on record," Mussoline said

The largest snowfall came in March 1958, well before modern amenities, like the snowblower, were commonly found in household garages, when 32 inches of snow fell on the county during a single storm.

What's ahead: The temperature is expected to hover around the freezing point the next couple of days, allowing for the massive amount of snow to slowly melt away. That should quell any concerns of flooding.

But the snow that does melt during the day will refreeze at night, when the thermometer is expected to dip to as low as 12 degrees one night this week. Monday night's low is expected to drop to 25, and that should make for some slippery roads the next morning.

"So Tuesday we can start out with some icy spots," Mussoline said, adding the same goes for every morning throughout the week.

Got lucky: Though the storm brought the county, and much of the Eastern United States, to a standstill, it could have been much worse.

The snow that fell was rather light compared to heavy, wet snow and didn't stick to tree limbs or power lines, Lindquist noted.

That prevented the lines from crashing down and knocking out power. A few outages were reported but far fewer than officials anticipated.

As of Sunday evening, Met-Ed reported fewer than five outages in the county.

"It could have been much worse," Lindquist said.

Collapses: But numerous emergencies did arise. York County 911 had an increased number of calls, generally from people who couldn't make it to hospitals because of road conditions. There were also a few roof collapses or partial collapses.

The roof of one hangar at the York Airport in Jackson Township caved in. Planes were inside at the time.

The canopy over the gas pumps at Mose's Gulf Station on West Market Street in West Manchester Township was sent crashing down under the weight of the snow.

York City Fire Chief Dave Michaels said he heard a few calls outside the city for pregnant women going into labor and needing to be taken to the hospital via ambulance.

City crews responded to a few gas leak calls and medical calls, but, of the most part, nothing major. But when firefighters were sent out during and just after the storm, it was no easy task.

"It's slow going," Michaels said. "We have the tire chains on the trucks."

Now that the storm is finished, the chief is reminding residents, including those outside the city, to clear the fire hydrant nearest to their homes instead of leaving firefighters to waste precious time finding and clearing it should there be a fire. There should be 3 feet of clearance around the hydrant.

"I know this one is tough with the mounts of snow in front of the hydrants," Michaels said.

Staff writer Chris Dornblaser contributed to this report.

— Reach Greg Gross at