Freezing rain, snow complicate morning commute
Cranberry Bureau Chief
Written by:
By J.W. Johnson Jr.
January 10, 2018
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Units from the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Department and police department responded to a two-vehicle accident about 9:20 a.m. Monday at 2067 Ehrman Road. According to officials at the scene, the drivers of the vehicles asked to be checked for injuries following the accident, but both were able to walk from the scene.

What began as a slightly slippery morning commute turned dangerous Monday, as heavy snow blasted the area and caused havoc for drivers.

The worst of the weather began just before 9 a.m. in the southwest portion of Butler County. Two accidents were reported on Interstate 79 in Lancaster Township, two miles and two minutes apart from one another near mile marker 88. A third accident at the same location was reported at 12:15 p.m.

Calls seeking more information from state police in Butler were not immediately returned Monday.

PennDOT temporarily reduced the speed limit on Interstates 79 and 80 to 45 mph in response to the conditions, though that reduction was lifted by noon.

In Cranberry Township, crews responded to a two-vehicle accident about 9:20 a.m. at 2067 Ehrman Road. Officers at the scene said there were no serious injuries, though both drivers asked to be checked by medical personnel. As that scene was cleared, crews were called to another accident on Franklin Road, though no injuries were initially reported.

The accumulation, which measured about 3 inches in Cranberry, was further complicated by freezing rain, which began at about 5 a.m. and put a layer of ice on the road. Jason Dailey, Cranberry Township public works director, said crews began preparing for the weather Sunday night.

“This creeped up earlier toward that 5 a.m. start time,” he said, adding the freezing rain mixing with the already cold roads caused issues. “Despite the material already down, anything hitting the roads was causing ice pretty early in the morning rush hour.”

Monday's weather caused the perfect storm, Dailey said, as snow on top of ice can be “deceptive” for drivers.

“Freezing rain is always the toughest,” he said. “It's always hardest to get in front of. Once it bonds to the road, you're fighting twice as hard to break that bonding. We would probably prefer a few inches of snow over freezing rain any day.”

Dailey said crews were able to get the first application of salt down by 7:30 a.m., with a second round starting at 9:30 a.m. Though conditions had improved by noon, Dailey said township officials would keep an eye on additional accumulation.

Chuck Mascellino, Cranberry Township Police sergeant, said there were no major injuries due to accidents Monday, with no transports made. He said the department doesn't typically alter its approach when responding to weather-related issues.

“We kind of take (calls) as they come in and handle them as safely as we can,” he said.

A welcome break from cold temperatures is expected later in the week, with a high of 56 degrees anticipated Thursday.