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Rain followed by snow and ice may make it difficult to pretreat Pittsburgh streets

Gene J. Puskar

Starting Thursday, officials expect up to a quarter-inch of ice followed by 2 to 3 inches of snow on Friday.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning Wednesday afternoon due to the dangerous combination of snow-covered ice.

Stephen Shanley, the director of the Allegheny County Department of Public Works, said the department is ready to deal with a wintry mix.

“There’s going to be transition time where it goes from rain to ice to sleet and then to snow. So, we’re monitoring multiple forecasts,” he said.

It’s not yet clear exactly when the rain will become snow, but Shanley said the forecasted rain prevented the department from pre-treating roads.

“If we put any salt down, the rain will just wash that away,” Shanley said. “So, we’ll be monitoring when that transition is starting, and we’ll be out there with our trucks loaded with salt to salt our roads.”

Public Works has 32 salt trucks and around 55 drivers ready to do what Shanley called “24-hour coverage” of county roads.

The county also replenished their stocks of road salt and liquid calcium chloride after recent snowstorms. Public Works has 8,000 tons of salt and about 2,700 gallons of liquid calcium chloride to treat the 360 miles of county roads for which the department is responsible.

Pittsburgh Department of Public Works crews began treating roads at 6 p.m. Wednesday, and will work into Friday clearing city streets. The city will deploy 60 trucks during the day and 40 trucks on overnight shifts. Park crews will also hand-clear city steps, sidewalks, and bridges.

Environmental Services will not offer garbage and collection services on Friday but will reschedule pickups for Saturday.

Steep and difficult portions of Newett, Copperfield, Suffolk, and Rialto Streets and Capitol and South Negley Avenues will be closed beginning Thursday morning until conditions improve.

“Throughout this winter weather event, I want to urge all Pittsburghers to stay home if possible,” Mayor Ed Gainey said in a statement. “The forecasted freezing rain, then ice, then snow is the worst combination for road conditions. If you must, drive slowly and leave space for our salt trucks to work.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission advised people on Wednesday to “monitor local forecasts and avoid unnecessary travel.” Somevehicle restrictions will be in place starting at noon on Thursday.

Motorists should be cautious, drive slowly, and beware of icy roadways. Drivers should also leave additional space between vehicles, including snow plows and salt trucks.

Residents can find out who is responsible for treating their roadwayshere.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at