Nor'easter causes crashes throughout York County

Harper Ho
York Dispatch
James Craig, 16, Glen Rock, sends his brother Christopher, 11, downhill while the brothers were sledding at Glen Rock Community Park Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Sleet provided for a slick hill ahead of the heavier snow later in the day. Bill Kalina photo

The first snowflakes fell on York City about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday as tow truck drivers and police hustled to round up cars parked on snow emergency routes downtown. 

Shortly after the snow began to fall, the number of vehicle crashes in York County jumped. First responders had worked more than 30 reports of crashes by late afternoon, according to York County 911. 

"There's always more accidents during the first snowstorm because people forget how slippery the roads can be," said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Thomas Kines. "The one fortunate thing about this storm... It's for the most part dry, powdery snow, so even if we get a lot of it, it's easy to move around."

Rollovers, stuck vehicles and even a vehicle off a bridge occurred throughout the county.

Central Pennsylvania was expected to see heavy snow from the nor'easter, which could cause major travel disruption in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Most of Pennsylvania was under a winter storm warning Wednesday afternoon. The National Weather Service issued the warning — meaning severe weather is imminent — for the region including York County until 7 a.m. Thursday. 

As of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, the forecasts looked on the mark, Kines said, which predicted steady snowfall that should be done by daybreak Thursday.

 "When it's all said and done, we'll see a total of eight to 12 inches. It won't be shocking if somebody in the area picks up little bit more than that," he said.

Most York County government offices closed at noon Wednesday, said York County spokesperson Mark Walters.

"It's going to keep snowing, so we have get our people home and off the road before it gets worse," he said early Wednesday afternoon. "My hope is that people are doing what we're doing, maybe make a last-minute errand and going home." 

Walters said the number of crashes on Wednesday was more than average "but unfortunately" the volume was not unusual during this kind of weather. He, like other state and local officials, implored residents to stay off the roads and give city workers space to do their work outside. 

More:Most York County schools close ahead of storm

More:York County municipalities declare snow emergencies

Heavy snow could mix with sleet Wednesday night, mainly over York and Lancaster counties, according to the weather service, and accumulation rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour were likely. 

More:York County municipalities declare snow emergencies

In line with York City and other local municipalities that have declared snow emergencies, Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday signed a proclamation of disaster emergency ahead of the storm. 

The proclamation authorized state agencies to use all available resources and personnel to deal with the storm. It could free up resources in an effort to make sure the storm doesn't cause major delays in distributing the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine, officials said.  

Josiah Koehler of Glen Rock takes a bike ride on the York County Heritage Rail Trail in the falling snow through Glen Rock Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. "I just wanted to get some cardio," he said. Bill Kalina photo

On Wednesday, PennDOT and PA Turnpike officials issued travel restrictions on highways and interstates throughout the eastern portion of the state. Most commercial vehicles were banned from major thoroughfares at 1 p.m. Wednesday, including Interstate 83 between York City and Harrisburg.

The state Department of Transportation issued a 45 mph speed restriction throughout Pennsylvania, including on I-83 and U.S. 30 in York County.

PennDOT reported 52 weather restrictions in effect Wednesday afternoon in addition to multiple vehicle crashes on Interstate 80.

Further restrictions, including closure of entire highways, were possible, officials said.