York City issues snow emergency with 10+ inches of snow forecast

Harper Ho
York Dispatch
Florian Schmid of York City walks past a snowy window display for Sniffany's of York, a pet spa and boutique on West Market Street in the city, during a snow squall Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Schimd was heading to the post office. York County and the region were under a winter weather advisory Monday. Bill Kalina photo

York City has declared a snow emergency in advance of Wednesday's winter storm, which meteorologists say will blanket much of central Pennsylvania with potentially record-breaking snowfall.

York City issued a snow emergency on Tuesday. The emergency begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to a city news release.

The National Weather Service at State College issued a winter storm warning from 10 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday for York County as well as Huntingdon, Mifflin, Juniata, Fulton, Franklin, Perry, Dauphin, Lebanon, Cumberland, Adams and Lancaster counties.

Meteorologists are predicting snowfall of at least 10 to 14 inches.

"This is definitely an abnormal storm. This is a very strong storm for us," said NWS meteorologist Charles Ross. "It could be a record snowfall. It certainly has record potential for December."

Ross said the quick-moving storm system will pick up mid-afternoon Wednesday and peak about 8 p.m. to midnight, then continue through the night. 

"(Wednesday) evening is not going to be a good travel night at all," Ross said. "The first half of the day, the weather won't be too noticeable. It will be clouding up, and you might see some flurries. If there's any travel or supplies you want to get, do it before lunch. Give yourself some time, and then don't plan on going anywhere (Wednesday) night."  

Heavy snowfall with an accumulation of 12 to 18 inches and possibly higher amounts locally can be expected, according to the National Weather Service, and bands of heavy snow falling at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour at times are likely after Wednesday afternoon.

York County will see mostly fluffy snow and maybe short periods of some sleet, Ross said. Thursday and Friday will be dry and chilly, with low temperatures below freezing and highs in the 30s before returning to the 40s on the weekend.

Allison Schoolden of Glen Rock sweeps her vehicle before heading to work Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. York County and the region were under a winter weather advisory Monday. Bill Kalina photo

York City: York City declared a snow emergency following a Tuesday morning NWS webinar about the upcoming storm.

All vehicles along the snow emergency routes must be moved before the declaration takes effect or risk getting ticketed or towed. Parking will be free in city parking garages and lots but must be removed by 8 a.m.  Friday. 

The following streets are impacted:

  •  Market Street, city limit to city limit;
  •  Philadelphia Street, city limit to Carlisle Avenue
  • Queen Street, city limit to Arch Street
  • George Street, city limit to city limit
  • Princess Street, city limit to city limit
  • Duke Street, Jackson Street to North Street
  • West King Street, from South Beaver Street to South George Street
  • Beaver Street, from North Street to West College Avenue

To report a concern, contact the snow emergency hotline at 717-849-2228.

A growing number of other municipalities have also declared snow emergencies, including Hanover and Shrewsbury boroughs, Hopewell and East Hopewell townships and the Northeastern Area Emergency Management area.

A PennDot snow plow clears the east bound lane of East Prospect Road in York Township, Monday February 3, 2014. York Dispatch File Photo
(Photo: York Dispatch)

PennDOT: The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission strongly encourage motorists to heed all travel restrictions and delay unnecessary travel, as significant winter weather conditions will become hazardous.

PennDOT spokesman Dave Thompson said crews are anticipating the storm and are ready to react and adjust.

"Anytime there is a large amount of snow predicted, obviously we're interested in what's going to happen and there's a certain amount of anticipation about how it's going to roll," Thompson said. "We're ready. We're geared up." 

He said routes are prioritized based on traffic volumes, starting with interstates and expressways, and secondary roads are cleared as needed.

PennDOT has "methods of attack" when it comes to heavy snowfall, Thompson said. For example, crews may pretreat the roads will salt brines depending on how the weather unfolds.

"We deal with all kinds of weather, so we'll react and adjust as needed," he said. "We have the tools that we normally have at our disposal."

He said PennDOT has protocols in place for on-foot crews working under COVID-19 such as social distancing and wearing masks and cleaning touch points in the stock pile.

"They'll be out there when the weather gets bad. Our folks will be out there for sure," he said.

Record snow: The most recent big snowstorm in York was in March 2018 when about a foot of snow fell on the city,  according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Thomas Kines. In December 2009, there were also reports of 18 inches in the York area.

The two-day snowstorm record fell on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1961, according to NWS, with 13.9 inches in Harrisburg.

"It's been a few years since we've seen a storm before Christmas or this much snow on it," Ross said. "We think its' got a pretty decent chance of sticking around right till close to Christmas. We might have a white Christmas out of this."