- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvanians were watching an ominous forecast Tuesday of another winter storm, even as crews worked to restore power for the last few suburban Philadelphia customers who were among the hundreds of thousands in the state left in the dark after last week’s snow and ice storm.

The prospect of several inches - and maybe a foot or more in some places - put more pressure on already stretched stockpiles of road salt and sent consumers on a hunt for the French toast supplies: milk, bread and eggs.

“We’re already shipping out extra products in stores and telling our stores to juggle their schedules,” said Weis Markets spokesman Dennis Curtin. “We’re sending out extra shipments to virtually every one of our stores.”

PECO said about 1,000 customers remained without power Tuesday, while FirstEnergy and PPL said they were able to get everyone back on line over the weekend. The storm last week knocked out power to about 750,000 customers in the state.

All three utilities said they were monitoring weather forecasts and expressed confidence they would be able to field sufficient crews to handle any new outages.

PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez said some of the crews brought in from Alabama have already headed back home, especially since that region is in the path of its own winter storm. PECO has been figuring out which out-of-area crews it can keep on the job to deal with the storm expected to reach Pennsylvania late Wednesday or early Thursday.

“We will ensure that we have adequate staffing in place to respond,” Menendez said.

FirstEnergy’s Scott Surgeoner said its plans include bringing in its employees from unaffected areas, including other states.

“We have begun internal conversations and conference calls and planning in case we do want to move crews from places that will not be impacted,” Surgeoner said.

In Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley could get the worst of the storm, which is expected to arrive late Wednesday or early Thursday, said Eric Horst, director of the Weather Information Center at Millersville University.

Horst said the storm should not stick around long enough to leave enough snow that it will compare with some of the record-setting winter storms in recent decades, but some areas may get a foot or more. West of Harrisburg will see little or no wintry weather, while southern New Jersey may see some snow followed by hours of rain.

Horst said Harrisburg should expect 5 to 10 inches of snow, and the suburbs northwest of Philadelphia might see a rain-and-snow mixture. The Lehigh Valley and the southern Poconos could get 10 to 15 inches of snow, Horst said, cautioning that the storm’s track and severity were still developing.

Menendez said PECO’s response to the storm last week, which was most severe in the heart of her company’s service area, required replacement of 73 miles of line, 204 transformers and 465 utility poles. PECO’s website received 4.5 million hits and its customer care center fielded more than a million calls.

The string of wintry weather in Pennsylvania has also put a serious dent into road salt supplies.

Ed Truitt, director of emergency services in Delaware County, adjacent to Philadelphia, said local governments in his area were scrambling to get loans of salt from PennDOT to get them through the coming week.

“Even the suppliers are in short supply,” Truitt said. “The reason why you plow and salt is for public safety - so that the police cars, the fire and ambulance can go where they need to go. If they can’t do that, bad things can happen.”

Pennsylvania State Police reported a jump in the number of crashes and injuries linked to snow blowing or falling from vehicles, particularly tractor-trailers. The operator of a vehicle that causes such an accident can be fined $200 to $1,000.

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