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Midstate deals with spring nor'easter's heavy snow, winds

Written by Kristen de Groot and Bruce Shipkowski/The Associated Press | Mar 21, 2018 4:34 PM
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Tractors sat silently in the snow while fruit trees showed a rosy hue of buds in Loganville on the first day of spring, which brought heavy snowfall throughout the area. Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record

(Philadelphia) -- The fourth nor'easter in three weeks pushed its way up the East Coast today, the first full day of spring, with high winds and the potential for a foot or more of snow from West Virginia to New England.

Airlines canceled thousands of flights, and school districts throughout the Northeast canceled classes ahead of the storm that's expected to intensify in the afternoon, with heavy, wet snow likely to knock out power across the region. Shore towns were warned that coastal flooding is possible.

A winter storm warning is in effect for most of central Pennsylvania until 8:00 p.m. and until 11:00 p.m. in Berks County.

Snow has been falling throughout the day -- with a total of four to eight inches likely across much of the region.

A handful of northern counties -- Columbia, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Snyder and Union -- could see a total of two to five inches.

Speaking at a PennDOT maintenance facility in Philadelphia, Governor Tom Wolf reminded drivers to keep a safe distance from PennDOT plows and salt trucks working to keep the roads clear.

He added Pennsylvanians may be better off by just hunkering down.

"If you don't have to go out, don't go out. Stay off the highways," he said. "If you have neighbors who need help, help your neighbors. Just be safe. Be careful."

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A woman walks through a winter storm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PennDOT has temporarily lowered the speed limit to 45 miles-per-hour on all major midstate roadways:

Interstate 81 in Franklin, Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon counties
Interstate 78 in Lebanon County
Interstate 83 in York, Cumberland and Dauphin counties
Interstate 283 in Dauphin County
Route 283 in Dauphin and Lancaster counties
Route 22/322 in Dauphin County and Perry counties
Route 581 in Cumberland County
Route 11 in Franklin and Cumberland counties

The Turnpike has temporarily posted a 45 mile-per-hour speed limit along the entire east-west mainline from Ohio to New Jersey as well as the entire Northeastern Extension.

Snow started falling last night in West Virginia and Kentucky and continued through Wednesday morning, while mid-Atlantic states saw a wintry mix before the precipitation was to change over to all snow.

The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to kick into gear in the mid-Atlantic by late Wednesday morning, then head north to New York and New England. But forecasters noted the storm had sharp gradients that could cause several inches to fall in some spots, while nearby areas could see far less accumulation.

Residents still frazzled from the last three recent storms said they were ready for this one, though many hoped it would be the last and give way to spring-like weather.

"I didn't think I'd still need to keep storm stuff in my car in late March, but what are you going to do?" Wilson Collins said as he prepared to leave his Toms River, New Jersey, home on Wednesday morning, checking his trunk to make sure he had a shovel, a blanket and other emergency items. "I'm hoping most of the snow will accumulate just on the grass, but the roads will be a mess no matter what. I just hope this is finally it."

National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Peterson said the latest storm is tough to call.

"It's definitely a tricky forecast," Petersen said. "We're still expecting heavy snows throughout the region, but there could be lower numbers in some coastal areas where warmer temperatures are causing rain or more of a wintry mix."

Residents were urged to stay home and off the roads, if possible, so crews can try to keep streets clear.

The flight-tracking site FlightAware reported more than 3,800 canceled flights across the U.S., most in the Northeast.

On the ground, Amtrak scaled back service on the Northeast corridor between Washington and Boston, and some states banned certain types of trucks from major highways.

Shipkowski reported from Toms River, New Jersey and WITF's Tim Lambert contributed to this report.

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