The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 15, 2013

Clearing snow may take Johnstown longer this year

JOHNSTOWN — The city of Johnstown is down by two plow trucks this winter, but Darby Sprincz, public works director, promises his best effort to keep the streets open through the snow and ice storms.

Sprincz and his highway crew are going into the winter with seven trucks rather than nine, and he is asking people to be patient.

“It may take a little longer for us to get there at times,” he said.

The two trucks had to be taken out of service because they were so old he could no longer find parts to keep them on the road.

Given the city’s financial situation, replacing the trucks is not an option, Sprincz said.

Up the road in Ebensburg, highway crews are ready, as are the salt and anti-skid stockpiles and trucks, Borough Manager Dan Penatzer said.

“We’re ready,” Penatzer said. “If we can get two or three trucks out on a major snowstorm, they can stay ahead of it.”

He has high praise for

PennDOT’s Cambria County crew, which keeps the borough’s main roadways such as Center and High streets open.

As with the municipalities, PennDOT at the state and county levels is ready for whatever the winter brings.

“Our stockpiles are full at this time and the plows are there ready to go on the trucks,” said Tara Callahan-Henry, District 9 community relations coordinator.

“Because it’s not currently snowing, they’re still using the trucks for other operations.”

At midweek. PennDOT’s Winter Guide, outlining materials and equipment available, has the highway agency looking at spending about $190 million statewide on winter highway and bridge maintenance.

Of that total, about $19 mil-lion is earmarked for Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon and Fulton counties.

Breaking that figure down a little more, PennDOT By The Numbers shows that $4.9 million has been allocated for Cambria, an indication that the state is hoping for milder winter. Last year,

$5.8 million was spent on Cambria County.

For Somerset, the state has budgeted $5.4 million, down from the $6.9 million spent during the winter of 2012-2013.

With a small storm already in the record books, District 9 already is in daily communication with AccuWeather in State College.

“They keep us informed of what’s coming,” Callihan-Henry said.

Dispatchers in each county are keeping an eye out, especially for problem areas such as Route 22 in the Cresson area and Route 219 near the Johns-town-Cambria County Airport, she said.

“We have satellite trucks in key locations where weather can change quickly,” she said.

Cambria’s PennDOT facility and its crews are ready, said manager

Dennis Mehora.

“We’re fully stocked. All the equipment has been prepped and ready and we’ve done dry runs to assess things such as turnarounds,” he said.

The crews have also gone through a reminder course on snow plowing techniques and how to handle difficult situations. While daylight shifts are still in place, that can change as soon as the weather turns bad, he said.

As the storms begin, the crews will start dual shifts with daylight working from 4 a.m. to noon and evening shift from noon to 8 p.m.

While Mehora, a veteran of winter highway maintenance, hopes drivers slow down and give the trucks plenty of room, he has an increasing concern over cellphone use behind the wheel.

“They need to stop using cellphones, especially when roads are bad,” he said. “Turn it off. Nothing is more important than you concentrating on the road and driving.”

With four inches of snow in northern Somerset County earlier this week, PennDOT county manager Joe Kelemen said his crews will start night patrols this weekend.

There are crews out in PennDOT trucks watching for icy spots and other problem areas.

“They are our eyes out there in the evenings,” he said. “They’re assuring public safety.”

Repeating a reminder he has given in the past, Kelemen urged motorists to leave a few minutes early for work and appointments during the winter months.

“The speed of the vehicle, they need to slow down and allow more time,” he said. “They also need to get ready, make sure the vehicle is ready for winter travel.”

Kathy Mellott covers transportation issued for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at kathymellotttd.

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