WILKES-BARRE — The year’s first winter storm pounded the Wyoming Valley with heavy, blowing snow and frigid cold that combined to disrupt routines and force many cancellations.
Mitch Gilt, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the storm initially developed in the Rocky Mountains and proceeded through the plains states. The low pressure system then moved across the Ohio Valley, while there was a warm front draped across New York and Pennsylvania Thursday night into Friday.
The storm produced snowfall as it moved across the country. In Northeast Pennsylvania, Gilt said an average of 4 to 6 inches were recorded, whereas 6 to 10 inches were recorded near the state’s border with New York. In New York, up to 12 inches were recorded.
Single-digit temperatures accompanied the snow, along with gusty winds.
“The biggest thing was the wind-chill temperatures, which were pretty much in the -10 to -15 range across the area,” Gilt said.
The storm did little to deter Barbara Bonczek, of Pittston, from getting a head start with the snow shovel in her driveway Thursday night, but she had to spend another hour shoveling Friday morning. Fortunately, her neighbor helped her by hitting her driveway and sidewalk with a snow blower.
“It was awful,” she said. Bonczek said the evening hours were “very cold, bitter,” and she had to turn up the thermostat a few times.
It was a busy day at Roto-Rooter in Wilkes-Barre. Dispatcher Brian Nicholof said the company had not seen any burst sewer or water lines as of Friday afternoon. He said calls for frozen sewer and water lines were made, but added that they are typical after a winter storm.
“Usually when people hear there’s going to be high winds, they worry about water lines freezing,” Nicholof said.
Despite the frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall, Gilt said the storm did not break any records. While he said the National Weather Service does not put any stock into a storm’s hype, the forecast for this storm was a successful one.
“As far as our forecasts go, I think we did very well with it,” he said.
The storm did more than just make travel treacherous. Many facets of daily life were either altered or halted altogether in lieu of Mother Nature’s grip:
• Public schools: Numerous schools throughout Luzerne County either operated on a two-hour delay or closed altogether.
• Colleges: Several colleges, such as Wilkes University, had a delayed opening. King’s College and Luzerne County Community College closed for the day.
• Airports: Flights in and out of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport were generally on time as of Friday morning. A few coming in and out of Philadelphia were cancelled due to the weather.
• Libraries: An official from Osterhout Free Library explained that each library in the Luzerne County Library System operates independently. As a result, some libraries were closed or opened later due to the weather.
• Bus service: According to the Luzerne County Transportation Authority’s website, fixed route operated on snow routes beginning at 9 a.m. Shared-ride vans operated on a compressed schedule, and no service was provided to outlying areas. Pickup times were estimated to be up to 2 hours late.
• Hospitals: Matthew Van Stone, spokesman for Geisinger Health System, said one case of hypothermia was reported from the emergency department at the Wilkes-Barre facility.
• Homeless: Ruth’s Place, a homeless shelter for women in Wilkes-Barre, reported an influx of visitors as a result of the storm. An official said four calls were made Thursday which is more than usual.
• Red Cross: All American Red Cross Northeast PA Chapters opened at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
• Interstates: PennDOT lifted most of the speed limit restrictions on all roadways in the region with the exception of Interstates 84, 380 and I-80 from I-81 to the New Jersey border Friday. The speed limit reduction of 45 mph had been in place on Interstates 84, 380 and I-80 from I-81 to the New Jersey border due to continued blowing and drifting snow.
Luzerne County Transportation Authority