Officials dealing with difficulties in clearing York County roads

David Weissman, and Greg Gross
York Dispatch

York County transportation officials are urging residents to sit tight as they continue working to clear the roadways in the aftermath of the weekend's major snowstorm.

Upwards of 31 inches were dumped in southern parts of the county, where the state Department of Transportation is still having trouble clearing paths for vehicles.

As of midday Monday, seven roads were closed in the county, including five in East Hopewell Township, according to the county's PennDOT maintenance manager, Michael Martin.

Martin said East Hopewell Township presented particular difficulties due to large amounts of open land that led to significant drifting and whiteout conditions during the storm.

Crews are working around the clock to clear the roadways, and Martin said he's hopeful all streets will be open late Monday or early Tuesday.

Alex Wilson, emergency management coordinator for East Hopewell, said the state's unplowed roads make it difficult for the township to reach and clear snow from residential areas.

"Quite a lot of residents can be very stuck," he said. "A lot of residents here live in very secluded areas bound by state roads."

The uncleared roads caused local school districts to cancel classes again Tuesday. Likewise, York County offices and courts, including the judicial center, will be closed again on Tuesday.

Visit: Gov. Tom Wolf did a whirlwind tour Monday to thank PennDOT crews in Harrisburg and Lancaster and York counties for their work during and after the storm.

"You have really made everybody proud," Wolf told the employees at PennDOT's York maintenance building. "Thanks. Get some rest."

The first-term Democratic governor noted all major highways in the state are open and crews have now turned their efforts to widening the paths between snowbanks on the highways by removing snow from the shoulders and opening turning lanes.

Clearing the shoulders of snow will be particularly helpful since it will allow melting snow to get to the drains, Wolf said.

Crews will also likely be tasked with dealing with melting snow that refreezes on highways as the temperature dips below freezing at night.

PennDOT crews in York should have enough salt on hand to handle the job, Martin said.

"Up until this storm we had only used 300 tons," he said, adding the main salt shed has the capacity for 22,000 tons

Local roads: Another problem area is York City, where Public Works Director Jim Gross said they "still have a ways to go" with clearing residential neighborhoods alleyways.

Gross said the department's focus had shifted over to the east end of the city around midday Monday.

Gross and Martin said some residents have added to their departments' workload.

Gross said he's seen several examples of people just abandoning their vehicles in the middle of the road. Martin said his department's biggest issue has been with residents pushing snow back onto highways after it's been plowed.

"It definitely slows things down," Gross said, "but we'll continue to work around the clock until everybody is dug out."

Gross and Martin also both preached patience.

Gross said lack of equipment has been an issue in getting to everyone, as he's experienced delays four separate times in getting additional equipment that was promised to his department by various contractors.

Helping hand: PennDOT is ready to lend a hand to local municipalities, Wolf said.

"The state stands ready to help the municipalities," he said.

As of Monday afternoon, PennDOT hasn't received formal requests for assistance, said Leslie Richards, PennDOT secretary.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a chance of rain Tuesday night, and Martin said they want to make sure they're prepared for that.

Martin said he expects travel conditions will be mostly back to normal in the next couple days, while Gross said he's unsure on a timeline.

Unplowed: One street in West York didn't see a plow until Monday afternoon, residents said.

That left residents of West Princess Street to use shovels and snowblowers to plow their own paths, said Emma Metherell, who lives in the 1200 block.

"It was definitely an effort amongst all the neighbors to get people out," she said, adding the four-block stretch of West Princess Street in the borough hadn't been plowed.

Shelley Metzler, council president, said it's not clear why a plow hadn't reach the street, but she noted the main streets and other streets in the borough are opened.

"We're doing the best we can. We have two drivers on pretty much 24/7," she said. "They will get it as soon as they can get there."

Less than five minutes after the interview with Metzler, Metherell said a plow was coming down West Princess Street.

The borough is working to hire contractors to haul off some of the snow that came with the massive weekend storm, Metzler said.

She advised residents whose cars are still snowed in to mark snowbanks, such as by using spray paint, to alert plow drivers that a car is under the bank.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com. Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.