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Winter Storm Leaves Thousands Without Power, Causes Travel Nightmares

Matt Rourke
A person walks across Independence Mall during a snow storm in Philadelphia, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018.

The first snowstorm of the season caused havoc around Pennsylvania, downing trees and power lines and causing a travel nightmare, including for some drivers who were stuck for 12 hours on a snowy interstate.

Thursday's storm brought traffic to a standstill in many areas as drivers and road crews tried to keep up with the stronger than expected weather system.

According to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, about an inch of snow fell locally.

Snow was still falling Friday morning in the Poconos but was to taper off by afternoon.

Trees and power lines were downed across Southwestern Pennsylvania.

"Some of these trees haven't lost their leaves yet, so that's added weight on the tree," said National Weather Service meteorologist Fred McMullen "We had the wet snow go on top of it in the overnight hours, and that also accumulated more weight on the tree, and allowed them to fall and have large branches snap and fall on power lines and caused ... power outages."

Duquesne Light also said that 24,000 customers were "without power as a result of the snow and ice storm." The company says it has since restored power to 8,000 customers, but is working "as quickly and safely as possible" to restore power to the remaining 16,000. Duquesne Light said most of those customers are expected to have power restored by Sunday evening.

The wintry weather caused havoc on a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 78, with numerous vehicles getting stuck for several hours from the Lehigh Valley to the New Jersey state line. Police sometimes drove on the opposite side of highway, honking their horns to wake up drivers who had fallen asleep. Some drivers ran out of gas.

Drivers about 40 miles north of Philadelphia also spotted a camel in the snow.

An organization called Jewish Philly says it was their camel named Einstein. He was on his way to the group’s event at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center when the vehicle he was traveling in got stuck.

Jewish Philly later tweeted Einstein’s handler decided it was best for the camel to head home after his snow adventures, so he returned to Peaceable Kingdom Petting Zoo.

Pennsylvania residents – both human and camel – can expect safer travel conditions for the upcoming holiday, said meteorologist McMullen.

"In fact, we're not calling for any precipitation Monday through Thanksgiving day."

*This story was updated at 2:40 p.m. to provide more information.

90.5 WESA's Kathleen Davis contributed to this report.