Philly region prepares for snow storm, freezing weather on Thursday

Snow and sleet did not deter two members of the Huerta family, visiting from Houston, from challenging the Rocky Steps. Philadelphia is preparing for up to 3 inches of snow beginning Thursday morning.

Snow and sleet did not deter two members of the Huerta family, visiting from Houston, from challenging the Rocky Steps. Philadelphia is preparing for up to 3 inches of snow beginning Thursday morning. (Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)

Updated: 9:15 p.m.

Preparations are underway across the Philadelphia region for Thursday morning’s expected snow storm and bitterly cold weather. Here’s what you need to know.

Southeast Pennsylvania

The City of Philadelphia has declared a snow emergency ahead of the snowfall expected to begin late Wednesday night.

The snow emergency goes into effect at midnight.

At that time, all parked cars must be moved off snow emergency routes for plowing. Locations of snow emergency routes can be found here.

According to the National Weather Service, Philadelphia and the collar counties are expecting 5 to 7 inches of snow beginning around 9 tonight through 7 p.m. Thursday, with gusting winds up to 45 miles per hour.

Roads

The temperature is expected to remain below freezing into the evening. City officials warn that the high winds and blowing snow may make for difficult travel conditions on Thursday morning and could result in power outages over the next two days.

The Philadelphia Streets Department plans to salt primary and secondary roads, bridge decks, and streets in higher elevations beginning at midnight. Teams will begin plowing as the snow accumulates and will remain on duty overnight to monitor roadways and for emergency response.

“We are going to try and treat as many streets as possible with the increased snowfall,” said Steve Lorenz, the chief highway engineer for the city’s Streets Department. “You’re just going to have to bear with us a little bit.”

The Philadelphia Parking Authority will not enforce meter and time limit violations after 10 p.m. Wednesday, but will enforce all snow emergency and safety violations. Vehicles parked on snow emergency routes after midnight will be subject to ticketing and towing.

The PPA will also offer discounted parking in Center City garages during the snow emergency to help lessen the amount of cars parked on the streets. Beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday and running throughout the snow emergency, the PPA will offer a 24-hour flat $5 rate at the parking garages listed here.

If a tree falls during the snowstorm and is blocking a street or has fallen onto a car or home, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation suggests citizens call 911. If a tree falls on electrical wires, call PECO’s emergency line: 1-800-841-4141.

Transit

For SEPTA, the main concerns are the impact of below freezing temperatures on its operations and infrastructure.

“We are asking customers to plan for extra time in the event of delays and to exercise caution when boarding and departing from our vehicles,” said SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Operations Scott Sauer.

Personnel will also monitor cars that serve other lines, such as the Broad-Ridge Spur, buses, and trolleys to try to correct any weather-related issues.

The authority’s structural inspection team will look at its viaducts, longer or heavily skewed steel bridges, tunnel sections, and stations that may have water leaks or any other weather-related concerns.

There will also be speed restrictions on Regional Rail lines and some trolley routes, and SEPTA will have buses at key locations should they be needed to pick up passengers.

Because of the age of the Regional Rail system and its exposure to the elements, SEPTA staff will be outside monitoring its infrastructure and equipment to correct any problems caused by the weather conditions.

People traveling or picking up travelers from the Philadelphia International Airport should check their flight status before leaving for the airport tomorrow. You can get flight updates at 1-800-PHL-GATE or check the airport’s website.

Schools

In Philadelphia, Archdiocesan high schools and parochial elementary schools will be closed on Thursday.

The Chester Upland School District schools are closed Thursday and Friday. Administrative offices will be open on Friday.

Code Blue

Philly’s Office of Homeless Services is continuing its Cold Blue warning until further notice. The city’s homeless outreach teams will patrol the streets in greater numbers to urge homeless individuals to come to nearby shelters. If you have concerns about someone who is homeless, you can call the office’s Outreach Coordinator Center at 215-232-1984. Outreach is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Additionally, the city announced Wednesday that it has extended operations for the warming center at the Cione Recreation Center in Fairhill. The warming center will reopen Wednesday evening at 10 p.m. and remain open until 7 a.m. The center will offer hot drinks, blankets, and toiletries, as well as mental health and drug and alcohol outreach services.

Prevention Point Philadelphia is offering daytime shelter at its drop-in center on the 2900 block of Kensington Avenue.

Delaware

Roads

A winter storm advisory is in effect from 7 p.m. tonight until 5 p.m. Thursday for central and northern Delaware. In a statement, DelDOT said “at this time, motorists may anticipate snow accumulations of 2 to 8 inches with the higher amounts in southern Delaware.”

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Sussex County, including Rehoboth Beach and Georgetown, with 6 to 10 inches expected to fall before 7 p.m. Thursday. The service says “travel will be very dangerous to impossible.”

The service said Newcastle County, including Wilmington, could see between 4 and 6 inches of snow.

Transit

The ferry crossing between New Jersey and Delaware will not operate Thursday due to a buildup of ice on the Cape May side.

Ice has been building for the past few days at the terminals on both sides of the Delaware Bay, but the accumulation of ice on the New Jersey side, combined with the looming snow storm expected to hit the area tomorrow, forced ferry officials to shut down the vessels for Thursday.

Schools

The following school districts are planning on a two hour delay Thursday morning:

  • The Colonial School District, in New Castle
  • Christina School District
  • The Brandywine School District
  • Red Clay Schools and District Offices
  • Appoquinimink School District

New Jersey

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the Jersey Shore.

The warning is in effect from 9 p.m. Wednesday through 7 p.m. Thursday. The service anticipates “very dangerous to impossible travel, including during the morning commute on Thursday.”

From the bulletin: “Winds gusting as high as 50 mph will cause whiteout conditions in blowing snow. Significant drifting of the snow is likely. Scattered power outages could develop Thursday and Friday which would force considerable hardship where heat would not be available.”

By the time snow ends on early Thursday evening, the National Weather Service expects 8 to 12 inches of snow at the shore.

Then, forecasters are predicting “brutally cold” conditions Thursday night until Saturday night due to gusty northwest winds blowing in from Canada.

“I cannot stress enough how high-impact this stretch of cold might be,” forecasters from the Mount Holly, N.J. National Weather Service office wrote Wednesday morning. “Given the duration of the cold preceding this period, the added factor of windy conditions for a lengthy period during this period, and the anomalous nature of the cold that is forecast — societal impacts will probably be significant.”

Transit

All incoming and outgoing flights on Spirit Airlines from the Atlantic City Airport have been cancelled as of 7:50 p.m. this evening.

In a statement, NJ Transit said “Access Link is suspending morning service in Atlantic, Cape May & southern Ocean counties until noon. All certification trips & transfer trips statewide are cancelled.”

Due to the pending snow storm, PATCO will operate a snow schedule beginning tonight at midnight.

Schools

Schools in Camden County have been cancelled for Thursday.

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