Powerful, fast-moving snowstorm creating hazardous travel conditions throughout Northeast

As rain has turned to sleet and snow in our area, the Philadelphia region is in the midst of a rough commute.

The National Weather Service warns that heavy snow will create very hazardous travel conditions for commuters today as falling snow reduces visibility and accumulates on roads.

“We’re highly confident that this is a morning not to be traveling I-95 northwestward. Sleet in Philadelphia will be changing over to a moderate to heavy wet snow. Then periods of snow of varying intensity — everything will be covered — with temperatures at or below freezing in Philadelphia,” said Walter Drag at the NWS station in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.

PennDOT also reduced travel speeds to 45 mph on Interstates 76, 95, 476, 676; U.S. Routes 1, 30, 202, 422; and State Routes 63, 100 Spur and 309.

Philadelphia conditions

“Snow amounts in Philly will be probably a little bit less than we anticipated yesterday. But we’re still going for the general 3 to 6 inches in Philly and then this afternoon no snow. Just strong, gusty northwest winds,” Drag said.

The city of Philadelphia declared a Snow Emergency beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. All parked cars must be moved from Snow Emergency routes for plowing. A map of Snow Emergency routes can be found here.  Cars left on Snow Emergency routes will be moved to other parking spots to assist in snow plowing operations. If your car is moved, call (215) 686-SNOW to find it. Do not call 911.

The city recommends that you give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Workers are encouraged to make use of flex time if available. 

Snowfall rates are expected to reach 2 inches per hour, and heavy winds also are expected.

Philadelphia public and parocial schools are both closed. Many suburban districts canceled classes as well, made that call before rain changed over to snow.

The Philadelphia International Airport also began cancelling flights mid-day Wednesday. Travelers and those picking up travelers are encouraged to check their flight status before leaving for the airport tomorrow. Call your airline, get updates at 1-800-PHL-GATE, or check the airport website, www.phl.org.

Sanitation and recycling collections are suspended Thursday. Residents with a Thursday pick-up are asked to hold their trash until the following week. Some city parks, like Dilworth Plaza, John F. Collins Park and Sister Cities Park in Center City, closed too.

Despite all the closures, today’s Philadelphia City Council meeting will go on, as scheduled. It starts at 10 a.m., and Mayor Kenney is expected to give an update on city snow news at noon.

The Free Library of Philadelphia also is still open.

And if the storm topples trees, city parks and recreation arborists are on standby to respond to tree emergencies (downed trees that block roads or fall on houses, cars or other property). Call 911 if a toppled tree poses an immediate risk to public safety. If a tree falls on electrical wires, call PECO’s emergency line at (800) 841-4141.

SEPTA

Bus: Service on Route 35 is suspended until further notice due to weather conditions. Service on Routes 9, 27, and 65 will terminate at Wissahickon Transportation Center. Service on Route L will operate between Olney Transportation Center and Bethlehem Loop only. Route 117 will not service Elwyn Regional Rail Station. Weather-related detours for other bus routes went into effect at 6:30 a.m. Detours are available on the System Status section of www.septa.org.

Market-Frankford Line: SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line is operating on a regular weekday schedule without bus substitution. All trains will make all stops due to weather conditions.

Regional Rail: Ridership was down on most lines, as many commuters heeded authorities’ advice to stay home today or delay their commute until the skies clear.

New Jersey conditions

State offices are closed in New Jersey as snow moves across the state, slowing the morning commute. Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday told non-essential employees to stay home. A winter storm watch remains in effect for most of the state. Forecasters say rain and sleet are turning to snow.

Authorities say nearly 1,700 flights have been canceled at New York City’s three major airports because of the powerful winter storm hitting the region. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says Newark International had the most cancellations with 607 as of 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Delaware conditions

Transportation officials in Delaware are warning motorists to leave extra time for travel because roads could be slick with snow or ice. The Department of Transportation said in a statement Thursday that pretreating roads wouldn’t be effective because the storm began with rain that turned to snow. Salt crews are staged along major routes, but officials say people should watch for slick areas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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