Meteorologist: More snow fell in York County than all last winter

Harper Ho
York Dispatch

More snow fell in York County in the past two days than last winter's total snowfall accumulation, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Thomas Kines.

Some parts of York County saw upward of 11 inches of snow following the nor'easter, which blanketed much of the Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday and created chaos on roads and highways.

Kines said a total of 4 inches fell between October 2019 and April 2020, and the biggest snowstorm last winter was in January. Three inches fell.

"One noteworthy item is that we (York County) got as much from this snow overnight and yesterday as we did the entire winter last year," Kines said Thursday. 

Snow is cleared from a car on East South Street in York City, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, following the first winter storm of the season. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The snowfall set records in some counties in Pennsylvania, but not in York County.

"What happened in your area was that there was some sleet with the snow, and sleet doesn't accumulate nearly as easily as snow does," Kines said. "That cuts down on snow amounts, which is why you didn't get a foot of snow."

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The total average accumulation was between 7 and 11 inches throughout the county, Kines said. It was the most significant snowfall in a single storm since March 2018, he said, when about 13 inches fell.  

Most York County and York City government offices closed Thursday in the wake of Wednesday's nor'easter. Most schools in the area also closed or switched to remote learning because of the storm.

The early winter storm kept first responders busy, with dozens of crashes reported throughout Wednesday. 

Officials at the York County 911 Center said there were between 30 and 50 crashes on Wednesday — many of them fender-benders with no major injuries.

The bulk of the crashes happened after the first sign of snow about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and slowed down by nightfall, according to York County 911. Rollovers, stuck vehicles and even a vehicle off a bridge occurred throughout the county.

County spokesperson Mark Walters said no major crashes were reported.

Two people were killed Wednesday evening in a crash on Interstate 80 in Clinton County that involved more than two dozen vehicles, The Associated Press reported. 

Crashes and restrictions snarled much of the state's highway system. 

PennDOT and PA Turnpike officials issued temporary travel restrictions on highways and interstates throughout the eastern portion of the state. Most commercial vehicles were banned from major thoroughfares by late Wednesday.

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 by Thursday afternoon had lifted the temporary restriction on trucks and other vehicles from traveling on interstates in south-central Pennsylvania, which included all northbound and southbound miles of Interstate 81. PennDOT also restored all speed restrictions to their usual posted limits.

Multiple municipalities in York County declared snow emergencies, and Gov. Tom Wolf had 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, which was given to frontline health care workers earlier this week.

Much of Pennsylvania’s western and central regions saw accumulations in the double digits as the system tracked a bit farther north than meteorologists had anticipated.

Forecasters said Williamsport, Lycoming County, made history with a two-day snowfall record of 24.7 inches, breaking the record of 24.1 inches set there in January 1964, according to the National Weather Service in State College. 

The snow is expected to stick around for a few days, but predictions are bleak for folks hoping to have a white Christmas.

"We have no big storms coming up in the foreseeable future. Some people are wondering if the snow itself is going to stick around for Christmas. It's going to be a battle," Kines said. 

Temperatures are expected to exceed 40 degrees several times over the next week. 

"The one thing you have going for you (for a white Christmas) is that even though the daytime temps will be above freezing, the nights will get down below freezing, and when that happens you have a layer of ice on top of the snow," Kines said.