March 14--LUZERNE -- Dan Zionce, dairy manager at Gerrity's in Luzerne, stocked milk for the third time before noon on Monday during a mad rush the day before a potentially crippling snowstorm.
Shoppers at Gerrity's in Luzerne stocked up on staples like milk, bread and eggs and other groceries as the National Weather Service predicted that 14 to 20 inches of snow will fall through Wednesday in valley locations and around two feet at higher elevations. A NWS forecast said to expect at least 11 inches, most likely 20 inches, and up to two feet of snow.
Today's storm could set a new record for snowfall in a day. The record for a 24-hour snowfall at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport is 18.3 inches, set on Jan. 13, 1964.
"We'll see," said David Nicosia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Services in Binghamton. "It's going to be close. It's certainly going to be close."
Along with the snow, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning from 8 p.m. Monday until 8 p.m. Wednesday.
A blizzard warning means whiteout conditions are expected. The agency predicted sustained winds at 15 to 25 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 45 mph that would blow snow around and cause poor visibility. The warning suggests people only travel for emergencies.
The storm is a coastal storm known as a nor'easter. There is very warm weather in the deep south and very cold weather north of our region.
"The temperature difference is driving this big storm, and it comes right up the coast. It's a classic way that we get really heavy snow here in Northeast Pennsylvania," Nicosia said.
The forecasts led to crowded grocery stores for the last few days.
Joe Fasula, owner of Gerrity's, which has nine stores in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, said a few stores did more businesses in the last week than the week before Christmas. The stores were restocked after emergency orders of bread and milk came in, he said.
"We went through a lot of stuff already. We got emergency milk yesterday and we already went through that," Zionce said, adding more milk was coming in from West Pittston.
"You see how much it holds. You're holding almost 200 cases of milk in this thing," Zionce said, referring to the store's refrigerated shelves.
Zionce said Mondays are not usually as busy, but a number of senior citizens shop on Tuesdays during discount day. Sunday was "extremely busy," he said.
"It's been absolutely outrageous," said Dwane Kalinay, manager of Gerrity's in Luzerne. "It has been nuts."
Arlene Skiengel, 84, of Swoyersville, said she usually shops on Tuesdays, but came Monday because of the impending snowstorm.
"We have bread and milk and juice and lots of vegetables in case we have to make soup," Skiengel said. "We have snacks and Quik Joe ice melt naturally. We got meat and beef cubes for soup."
Gloriann Rinus, 63, of Shavertown, added a gallon and a half of milk, rye bread and a dozen eggs to her cart of groceries.
"We got TV dinners and we got pancakes and syrup and we're all set. And, we're going to make chocolate chip cookies," Rinus said. "I know I'm not getting out tomorrow and Tuesday is usually my shopping day because it's senior citizens day."
Main Hardware on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre sold about 150 shovels on Sunday and Monday, said manager Larry Stirewalt. Plenty of Quik Joe ice melt and rock salt also were being sold, he said.
"We made three trips to our warehouse to restock the front of our store," Stirewalt said.
Utility companies were gathering extra resources ahead of the storm to prepare for possible electricity outages. PPL and UGI had called in additional workers and lined up contracting crews to deal with outages.
Local governments were also preparing ahead of the storm. The Luzerne County courts are closed today, but will still accept emergency and time-sensitive petitions. People who need to file Protection from Abuse orders should go to the prothonotary's office on the third floor of the courthouse or call the office at 570-825-1754.
Buses from the Luzerne County Transportation Authority aren't running, and the county council rescheduled its Tuesday meeting for March 21.
Nanticoke police Chief Tom Wall said an extra officer will be on patrol Tuesday because of the storm.
He noted the Nanticoke Area School District and Luzerne County Community College would be closed, which would reduce a lot of the normal traffic in the city.
The blizzard warning means prolonged whiteout conditions are expected, which will make travel extremely dangerous or even impossible.
"If you venture out, you could be risking your life," the NWS said in its warning.
NOTABLE SNOWSTORMS SINCE 2007
The past ten years have brought a number of winter storms to the region. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association keeps a weather database of storm events that shows major storms. NOAA's data runs through November 2016. After that, totals on this list come from preliminary data that has not been through a final quality control by the National Climatic Data Center.
--Feb. 13-14, 2007: Total snowfall amounts across much of northeast Pennsylvania ranged generally between one and two feet. Higher terrain of northern Lackawanna, western Wayne and southeast Susquehanna counties saw between 24 and 30 inches of snow. The storm caused $75,000 of property damage in Luzerne County.
--March 16-17, 2007: Total snowfall accumulations ranged from 10 to 15 inches over the Poconos to between 5 and 10 inches across the rest of the region.
--April 15-16 2007: Snowfall totals ranged from 5 to as much as 20 inches in Luzerne County.
--Nov. 17-19, 2007: Snowfall totals across the county ranged from 3 to 11 inches, with the higher amounts occurring at higher elevations. Eleven inches was measured at Bear Creek Dam, while only 3 inches was measured in Wilkes-Barre. The storm caused $5,000 of property damage in Luzerne County.
--Feb. 10, 2008: An intense snow squall with wind gusts at up to 50 mile per hour moved across Northeast Pennsylvania during the afternoon. A 68-vehicle pileup occurred on Interstate 81 between the McAdoo and Hazle Township exits. Dozens of people were injured and one person died.
--Oct. 28, 2008: Snowfall accumulations across the highest elevations of Luzerne County ranged from 10 to 16 inches.
--Feb. 10, 2010: Northern and central parts of Luzerne County saw 6 to 10 inches of snow, and southern part of the county saw 10 to 17 inches.
--Feb. 25-26, 2010: Heavy snow fell across the county, with amounts ranging from around 12.6 inches in Mountain Top to 19 inches in Hazleton.
--Oct. 29-30, 2011: Valleys saw little snow, ranging from about 1 to 3 inches. However, higher elevations saw amounts ranging from 9 to 16 inches.
--Feb. 13-14, 2014: Snowfall amounts ranged from 7 to 15 inches across Luzerne County.
--Jan. 23, 2016: A large blizzard that dumped record-breaking snows across southern Pennsylvania just clipped Luzerne, Pike and Lackawanna counties. In the Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Honesdale areas, only 1 to 3 inches of snow fell from this massive storm for southern and east central Pennsylvania. Farther south, the Hazleton area saw up to 15.5 inches of snow, and there were unofficial reports of up to 18 inches of snow in the extreme southern part of the county.
--Feb. 9, 2017: A storm last month dropped 7.5 inches of snow at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, the most in almost three years. It was the area's biggest snowfall since 8.3 inches fell at the airport on Feb. 13, 2014.
Winter storms can topple tree limbs onto power lines, causing outages for hours.
To report outages:
To report an outage to PPL: Report online at pplelectric.com or by calling 1-800-342-5775. The PPL website also has information on outages.
To report an outage to UGI: Call 800-276-2722. Visit ugi.com/electric/outages for information on outages.
PPL, UGI and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission have advice for safety:
--If you lose power, check to see if your neighbors have lights. If so, check your breakers and fuses.
--Do not call 9-1-1 to report power outages. Those calls take dispatchers away from other emergencies and can also slow a storm response because you're not talking directly to the utility. However, if you have a downed power line or another hazardous situation, call 9-1-1 and then contact your utility company.
--Stay away from downed wires, and always treat any wires on the ground as if they are energized.
--Keep generators far away from buildings and never operate them in an enclosed space like a garage.
--Avoid candles because they can start a fire. Use flashlights instead.
--Charge cell phones, tablets and laptops before the storm.
--Prepare a storm kit -- gather the supplies you might need for a prolonged outage, including flashlight, batteries, canned food, bottled water, medication and a first aid kit.
--If you rely on medical equipment or have special personal needs, make a plan for an extended power outage at your home.
If you experience a power outage or a major storm-related issue, let The Citizens' Voice know by emailing email@example.com.
Pennsylvania American Water suggests preparing for cold weather before the winter by draining sprinkler systems and wrapping pipes. But if pipes do freeze, the company advises people to shut off the water immediately, thaw pipes with warm air from a hair dryer and then carefully turn on the water again when the pipes aren't frozen to check for cracks or leaks.
Call 1-800-565-7292 for water emergencies.
Temperatures are not expected to dip low enough to cause extremely high usage, said UGI spokesman Joseph Swope. Nevertheless, the company has stopped fuel for some customers that have other fuel sources.
Because the gas lines are buried underground, winter storms like this don't typically impact the system.
"Outside of an unanticipated system issue, we should be able to meet the needs of customers in terms of gas supply," he said.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission offers this advice for natural gas safety during winter storms:
--Keep outside vents for your natural gas furnace or other gas appliances clear of any accumulation of snow or ice. The vents provide air flow necessary for safe operation and blocked vents can lead to a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide.
--Carefully clear deep snow away from the area around your gas meter to allow utility access and to prevent potential disruptions of service, but keep snow blowers and plows away from the gas meter.
--Electric power outages can affect gas furnaces and other appliances. If they do not function properly when power is restored, call a professional for service.
--If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the building immediately. Leave the door open and do not use phones, switch lights or turn appliances on or off, or take any other action while inside the building. After you are safely outside, call 911 from your cell phone or neighbor's home.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has advice for pet owners:
--If it's too cold for you, it's too cold for your pet. Don't leave your pet outside during a snowstorm for longer than you would want to be outside with them.
--Prepare indoor activities for pets who are used to outdoor time.
--Stock up on pet food and medicines your animals may need, as winter storms can take out power, close roads, and even trap you in your home.
--Wipe off your dog's paws and belly with a moist washcloth after going outside. Snow-melting salt can be very painful to dogs' feet and cause illness if ingested. Clumps of snow can accumulate between toes and cause pain as well. Dog boots can protect sensitive paws.
The National Weather Service warns the storm will make travel dangerous and impossible.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports road conditions at 511PA.com. The service is also available through a smartphone application, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
Call 211 or visit 211.org to find other local services that offer help.
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