First flakes of major storm expected in York this evening
Forecasters are growing more confident York County will get thoroughly pummeled by Winter Storm Jonas this weekend, and local transportation and electricity officials aren't waiting around to see if they're right.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning from 7 p.m. Friday until 7 a.m. Sunday for York County and much of the rest of southern Pennsylvania. The weather service predicts the county's northern reaches will pick up about 10 to 12 inches, while the areas such as the aptly named Winterstown near the Mason-Dixon line could be staring down the barrel of 16 to 18 inches, according to meteorological technician Tony Mach.
He said there's a slight chance some snow will start Friday afternoon, but that's unlikely; it'll roll in later in the evening, strengthening after midnight.
AccuWeather predicts much the same. They're saying the county's looking at 1 to 2 feet of snow, as well as gusts above 30 mph. The reason for the big range, said meteorologist Alyson Hoegg, is that a very heavy band of snow will come through the region somewhere, but it's not clear what path it'll take. Most places will get about 12-18 inches, but anywhere unlucky enough to sit in the path of the band of very heavy snow could see 2 or even 2 1/2 feet, she said.
She said Friday should stay dry until about 10 p.m.
The silver lining for York residents is that the snow should be more dry and powdery, which is easier to move around than wet, heavy snow, said Tom Kines of AccuWeather. He added that Sunday forecasts are showing sunny skies, which may help melt some of the snow.
As for Saturday, Kines said wind will blow the snow around enough to impair vision, and travel will be "next to impossible."
Travel prep: Rich Farr, executive director at Rabbit Transit, said 10 inches of snow doesn't scare him. In 14 years working for the transportation company, they've only canceled service for three days, he said.
Farr said Rabbit Transit has been making its preparations for removing snow at its transfer centers and scheduling drivers who can make it to work.
The company has no plans to stop or suspend service on Saturday, but it might use snow routes or suspend service for an hour or so under blizzard conditions, Farr said.
Riders are encouraged to watch the company's Facebook page and website for any immediate changes to schedules or routes, Farr said. Customers may also call the Rabbit Transit's rider hotline at (717) 849-0740.
Jim Gross, director of the York City's Public Works department, said his department has already completed needed preparations for the storm.
The department's first priority is keeping primary and secondary streets cleared, and all the plows have been checked — eight large and 14 small — with salt in the bins, Gross said. The city declared a snow emergency in effect starting 7 p.m. Friday; by that time, everyone has to clear their cars from the snow emergency routes.
The York County Commissioners and county Office of Emergency Management are urging residents to avoid unnecessary travel during the storm, according to a county press release.
Residents preparing: Residents were preparing themselves for the weekend on Thursday afternoon at Home Depot in Springettsbury Township.
Roxanne Morello had a shovel and bag of rock salt on her way to the checkout line. She said she already had plenty of food, a snow blower and two other shovels at her Dover Township home. The third shovel is so that each of her three sons can "get to work," Morello said, laughing.
Erik Smetana of Windsor Township also picked up a snowblower.
"I have a feeling it's gonna get some use this weekend, unfortunately," he said.
He also lamented the fact he and his wife were scheduled to fly out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport this weekend, bound for a week's vacation in Mexico.
"We were supposed to leave Sunday morning," he said. "But that’s not gonna happen."
They're likely going to be able to fly out the next morning, and they're still going to spend seven days in Cancun, so everything should end up OK.
"It's just bad luck," he said.
Joe Fickus is scheduled to work at his Amish market store in Hanover this weekend, but he thinks it will be closed Saturday, he said. The Hellam Township resident, who brought just a shovel to the Home Depot checkout line, said he'd come straight from a Giant grocery store, where Fickus hoped to pick up some soda, but left because it was too crowded.
Todd Stauffer, an assistant manager at Home Depot, said the store had been pretty crowded the last couple nights, but lines seemed to be moving fairly smoothly.
"It seems like this is the week where people are starting to realize winter is here," Stauffer said.
Aside from shovels and salt, Home Depot has been selling a lot of pipe insulation, sealants, stripping, generators and batteries this week, Stauffer said.
The C-Town Supermarkets grocery store at 139 N. Duke St. in York City has been busy since Wednesday night, said manager Genesis Marquez. She said people have been grabbing all the usual items, such as bread, milk and bottled water.
"It’s like a wave of people, and then they leave and then another wave comes in," Marquez said.
Electricity prep: The county commissioners are also suggesting residents call their electricity provider, not 911, to report power outages unless the outage poses a threat to safety or property, according to the York County news release.
Met-Ed, the county's largest electricity supplier, has been tracking the storm since last weekend, according to spokesman Scott Surgeoner.
Surgeoner said Met-Ed has notified its employees they will be working throughout the storm and any restoration period. Met-Ed is also enlisting employees from First Energy, which owns Met-Ed, who are not in areas expected to be affected by the storm as well as other utility groups in case additional resources are needed.
Met-Ed will have employees answering customer calls 24 hours a day during the storm, Surgeoner said. Customers should call (888) 544-4877 to report outages or downed wires.
Customers can check First Energy's Storm Center website, where they can report an outage, see a map of all outages and estimated times for restoration of service.
Surgeoner said customers should make sure they have a flashlight and extra batteries and stay away from any downed wires.
— Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org.