Motorists reminded of potential for icing

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HARRISBURG – In anticipation of frozen precipitation and potentially icy roadway conditions in many areas this weekend, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is advising motorists to monitor weather forecasts and postpone unnecessary travel during the storm.

“We are prepared and will work before and throughout the storm,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “Any icing presents a challenge because rain will wash away some material, and ice is less visible to motorists than snow.”

If conditions warrant temporary speed-limit reductions or vehicle restrictions, they will be communicated via variable message boards, the 511PA traveler information website and smartphone apps. Motorists can also sign up for personalized alerts on the website.

Icy conditions are expected across the state, and PennDOT urges motorists to avoid travel if possible. If travel is necessary, use caution, reduce speeds and be aware of changing weather conditions. PennDOT pre-treated roadways where necessary ahead of this week’s storm to help prevent ice from forming a bond with the pavement during the early stages of a storm. However, salt is not a silver bullet, and drivers may encounter icy spots on the roadway. With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may actually be icy, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.

To help make decisions regarding winter travel, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts.

Drivers should prepare or restock their emergency kits with items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. Motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families have such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies.

If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 301 crashes resulting in four fatalities and 143 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency also advised residents that ice can cause trees to fall on power lines, causing power outages that can last for an extended period of time. If you lose power, never use a gas-fired appliance to heat your home, such as a stove or gas grill. They can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide in your home, a potentially fatal situation.

Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because the odorless, tasteless gas can leave victims incapacitated before they are aware of exposure. Sources can include wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, gas fireplaces, appliances, grills, generators, and motor vehicles. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for the flu and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, disorientation and fatigue. If you suspect carbon monoxide exposure in your home, leave immediately and call 911.

As additional resources, downloadable materials, including home and car emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, are available at www.Ready.PA.gov. Citizens can also find information about getting involved in local emergency response efforts and other volunteer opportunities through the ReadyPA website.

For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit www.PennDOT.gov/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at www.PennDOT.gov/safety.

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