The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 5, 2013

Snow piling up: Despite stormy stretch, the worst is likely to come

JOHNSTOWN — The calendar showing the first full week of January serves as a reminder that despite high piles of snow along many streets and highways in Cambria and Somerset counties, winter is just getting under way for motorists and property owners.

“You gotta think,” said Denny Mehora, PennDOT maintenance manager in Cambria County. “So far we’re doing pretty good. We’ve had a couple of major storms and people have to be aware of slowing down.”

With the mounting piles of snow and more sure to come, PennDOT and municipal officials remind homeowners that it is against the law to shovel or plow snow onto public highways, even if the snow piles on private property are growing.

“It’s illegal to throw your snow on the highway. It’s a fineable offense,” Mehora said.

“It’s creating a hazard to the right of way, and your actions could be the cause of an accident.”

As temperatures increase a bit during the next few days and some melting occurs, it might be a good time to push the snow piles back from the driveway and the street. But in the city that had better not happen with a 4-wheeler and a blade, said public works Director Darby Sprincz.

“With warmer temperatures coming it will help with melting, but people are not allowed to use quads to plow out a parking space,” he said. “It’s against the law to use a quad on city streets.”

Sprincz would like to see more residents take advantage of the street plows as they come through.

“We’ll wait for you to move your car and we’ll plow out that parking area,” he said.

The crews make two or three passes on each street, and Sprincz recommends being out in the car when the plow makes that second pass.

“We’ll be back around and it makes it easier for everyone,” he said.

While Cambria County has had a few major storms, because of their timing and the work of PennDOT crews, roads have been cleared promptly and few problems developed.

The snow piles are beginning to increase in volume, prompting action to move them out of the way.

For PennDOT, it means clearing plowed snow from along the barriers on Route 22 and other major arteries, while Ebensburg street crews began hauling piled snow from the borough’s downtown streets on Friday.

Ebensburg Manager Dan Penatzer said the snow will be loaded and trucked to land around the Young People’s Community Center on Prave Street at the bottom of the hill from the Cambria County Court-house.

The borough also started enforcing its sidewalk ordinance on Friday.

“Most of our residents are pretty good, but you always have a few,” Penatzer said.

A borough law stipulates that sidewalks must be shoveled and made passable within

24 hours after a snow event ends, he said. Failure to comply could result in a fine.

When it comes to mailboxes, PennDOT said the homeowner is responsible and while plow drivers are cautioned to use lower speeds when plowing in areas of mailboxes, some damage may occur.

PennDOT does not replace damaged mailboxes, PennDOT officials said. Since most mailboxes are placed within Penn-DOT’s legal right of way, it is up to the homeowner to make sure the mailbox can withstand the weight of snow being thrown from a plow.  

Meanwhile, , PennDOT spokeswoman Pam Kane reminded motorists to slow down, especially when coming to a bridge or late in the afternoon after a thaw when re-freezing often sets in.

Additionally, she said, don’t use the cruise control except when roadways are dry, stay back 100 feet from a snowplow and don’t pass the plow.

“All we want is for people to be proactive rather than re-active,” she said. “Be patient, slow down, and stay home during a storm if you don’t have to go out.”

It’s about using your head, be it for driving, shoveling snow or anything else, Sprincz said.

“Some people have common sense and use it. Others don’t have the common sense that would buy them a cup of coffee,” he said.

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