Winter storm update: Snow delays Pa. vaccine shipments; totals over 8 inches in some areas

Dogs frolic in their snowy yard in Moorestown, N.J.

Dogs frolic in their snowy yard in Moorestown, N.J. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Updated 4 p.m.

A winter storm is moving through the Philadelphia region, prompting cancellations on some public transit, closures of government buildings and COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites, and delays of vaccine shipments to Pennsylvania.

Here’s what you need to know:

The latest forecast

By late Thursday afternoon, areas of Northeast Philadelphia and the northern suburbs had seen up to 10 inches of snow fall, according to the National Weather Service.

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However, most of Philadelphia saw far less: the average snowfall in the city has been between two and four inches.

NWS meteorologist Robert Deal said the Philadelphia region is now expected to only see another inch or so of snow through tomorrow. But he said roads may ice over as snow mixes with rain and sleet and temperatures remain below freezing.

“I would caution against travel of any kind right now,” Deal said. “We are not in the clear.”

People in Fishtown shovel outside their homes
Philadelphians are bracing for more snow throughout the day Thursday, Feb. 18 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Snowfall in South Jersey underperformed this morning, with most of the region seeing just 1 to 2 inches of snow total, Deal said. By Thursday afternoon, the snow had mostly switched over to freezing rain and sleet, leading to some ice accumulation on the roads.

“Unless there’s a reason for you to be out on the roads, do not go out,” said Gov. Phil Murphy during a Thursday morning press conference. “Just stay in, stay safe, stay warm.”

Pennsylvania state meteorologist Jeff Jumper said the year’s overall snowfall to date was in the top 10 for several locations throughout the region.

“We certainly have had much more snow to date than typical have in a year,” he said, noting we still have six to eight weeks to even out the totals and that looking ahead, the snowstorms appear to be thinning out in the coming weeks.

Alerts, emergency orders

A Winter Storm Advisory is in effect until 7 p.m. on Friday for Northern Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Southwestern and Central New Jersey.

Philadelphia declared a snow emergency for Thursday, instructing all cars to be moved from snow emergency routes to allow for plowing. Residents can monitor plowing status online. The emergency declaration lifted at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

City buildings closed at noon. All school buildings and access centers are closed, but since instruction remains entirely remote, the School District of Philadelphia will not issue a snow day and classes will continue. The Free Library and recreation centers are closed for in-person activities.

The streets department is suspending all trash and recycling pickup until Friday.

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Two pups and their humans take a snowy walk at Penn Treaty Park
Two pups and their humans take a snowy walk at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia during a storm on Feb. 18, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services issued a Code Blue on Wednesday at 3 p.m., which will remain in effect until further notice. Throughout the Code Blue, Philadelphia’s homeless outreach teams patrol the streets and urge those experiencing homelessness to come into shelters and avoid dangerously cold temperatures. Homeless outreach can be reached at 215-232-1984 at any time.

New Jersey officials expected the storm to be an “all-state affair,” Murphy said, with all counties under either a Winter Storm Warning or a Winter Weather Advisory Thursday morning. All New Jersey state offices will be closed on Thursday.

Montgomery and Chester County officials announced all courts, facilities, and government offices will be closed.

1-year-old rescue dog Pepper takes an early morning walk in the snow
1-year-old rescue dog Pepper takes an early morning walk in Philadelphia during a storm on Feb. 18, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Transportation

Roads are slippery and drivers are urged to use caution. The ramp for the 76 East approach to the Walt Whitman Bridge from Penrose Avenue is closed as the result of a pole down, according to the Delaware River Port Authority.

SEPTA urged caution when using public transportation Thursday, warning passengers to expect delays.

A SEPTA bus glides down Aramingo Avenue in the snow
A SEPTA bus glides down Aramingo Avenue in Philadelphia during a storm on Feb. 18, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The following bus routes have been suspended due to inclement weather: 

123, 124, 125, 127, 128, 130, 131, 132, 133, 139, 150, 206, 35, 80, 90, 92, 94, 95, 96, 98, H, XH.

PATCO trains are operating on or close to schedule, as are DART lines. NJ Transit is operating on a regular weekday schedule. There are commercial vehicle restrictions on several New Jersey highways.

COVID-19 vaccination and testing

The winter weather has caused vaccine shipment slowdowns from the manufacturers, affecting the majority of vaccine providers across the commonwealth.

Lindsey Mauldin, senior advisor on COVID-19 response for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said the Moderna vaccine was not shipped on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday from the distributor to the DOH; the Pfizer vaccine was not shipped Monday and limited doses were shipped Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mauldin noted this would cause a backlog both for orders going directly to providers, as well as to the health department for allocation to providers.

A PennDOT vehicle plows the entrance to 95 North during a snow storm
A PennDOT vehicle plows the entrance to 95 North in Philadelphia during a storm on Feb. 18, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

It was not clear how allocations would be prioritized with limited supplies. This delay is on top of the mishandling of second doses of Moderna vaccines reported Wednesday, leading to more scheduled first-shot appointments than available supply.

Maudlin said patients with appointments should stay in touch with providers as closely as possible to understand delays.

In Philadelphia, Chester, and Montgomery counties, city- and county-operated coronavirus vaccination clinics will be rescheduled.

Those with appointments in Philadelphia are being contacted to set up a different time. Registered clients in Montgomery County have been notified that their appointment has been moved to Monday.

Plows clear the roads in Moorestown, N.J.
Plows clear the roads in Moorestown, N.J. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Black Doctors COVID Consortium will be running its vaccination clinic for eligible residents and those with appointments at the Liacouras Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone with an appointment scheduled at a non-city site, such as a hospital, community clinic, or pharmacy should call ahead and check their status.

In New Jersey, the Burlington, Middlesex, and Morris mega-sites will be closed Thursday. Burlington appointments for Thursday will be moved to Feb. 19. Middlesex and Morris appointments will be moved to Feb. 20. The Gloucester mega-site will reschedule all appointments for Thursday between 2 and 6 p.m. throughout Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Bergen County mega-site was scheduled to close by 10 a.m. Thursday with appointments being rescheduled. Mega-sites in Gloucester and Atlantic County remained open as of Thursday morning.

COVID-19 testing sites will remain open Thursday in Philadelphia, but the health department recommends calling before an appointment. All Montgomery County COVID-19 testing sites will be closed Thursday.

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