- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Icy conditions spawned numerous crashes, prompted interstate closures and speed limit reductions and triggered the brief shutdown of an eastern Pennsylvania airport Wednesday, authorities said.

The National Weather Service issued freezing rain advisories for portions of central and eastern Pennsylvania, later canceling it for many areas where the temperature warmed enough to produce only rain.

But the Reading Regional Airport had to close for 10 to 15 minutes when airport manager Terry Sroka said the icy conditions meant “braking action was nil” on the runways.

“When the freezing rain hit, it turned into a sheet of ice within minutes, so we had to apply de-icing agent immediately,” he said. Only one plane was affected during that period, he said.

Crashes prompted state transportation officials to close Interstate 80 in two places, a 10-mile stretch in western Pennsylvania and a seven-mile stretch of westbound lanes in central Pennsylvania. Officials said one chain-reaction crash involved an estimated 50 vehicles. Eastbound lanes were later reopened but westbound lanes were expected to remain closed until early afternoon.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries. Speed limits were reduced to 45 mph in several counties on I-80 and I-99.

A rare winter thunderstorm Wednesday morning in Philadelphia was responsible for broken windows and downed power lines in the city’s Roxborough neighborhood, WCAU-TV reported.

This season’s long, cold, precipitation-filled winter in Philadelphia has been the third-snowiest on record, the National Weather Service confirmed.

Forecasters said the 3 inches recorded Tuesday at Philadelphia International Airport boosted the snow total since December to 58.4 inches.

It surpassed the 55.4 inches recorded in 1898-99, said Meteorologist Valerie Meola of the weather service office in Mount Holly, N.J. Snowfall records for the city go back to 1884.

It’s short of the second-largest winter snowfall total in the city, the 65.5 inches recorded in 1995-96.

By far the largest snow total was recorded during the 2009-10 winter, when 78.7 inches fell on the City of Brotherly Love.


Associated Press writer Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.



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