Penn Dot plow trucks sit idle but ready to go at the Cambria county Maintenance District 9-3 stock pile #13 in Geistown on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – A fast-moving winter storm appears to have Johnstown and the Laurel Highlands in its crosshairs.

Cambria, Somerset and eastern Westmoreland counties could see snowfall totals of eight to 12 inches from Sunday afternoon to Monday, National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Evanego said.

“Right now, it looks like you can draw a line from Somerset County ... to McKean and Potter counties where we could see the heaviest swath of snow,” he said.

The region’s highest elevations, including ridgetops such as Pennsylvania high point Mount Davis in Somerset County, are most likely to see closer to 12 inches, according to the National Weather Service’s projections.

While Bedford County and areas to the east may see a wintry mix, the precipitation will likely be all snow for communities such as Johnstown, Ebensburg and Somerset, Evanego said.

A wave of low pressure dipping into the lower Mississippi Valley will set up the storm, Evanego said. Expect temperatures in the mid-20s.

“This is a classic East Coast winter storm,” he said.

For Johnstown, snow is expected to develop late Sunday afternoon, become steady during the evening and remain that way through Sunday night before tapering off into scattered snow showers Monday as the storm front heads north. Overnight Sunday, snow will be heavy at times, causing potential visibility and traction issues for motorists.

‘Mad rush’ for supplies

At Bantly Hardware in Dale Borough, store workers had something else to prepare for on Friday – the anticipated wave of customers who will be making last-minute buys this weekend to get ready for the storm, head cashier Judy Adams said.

“There are the people who prepare ahead of time for winter – several local businesses bought full pallets of rock salt – and there are the ones who don’t,” she said, “and we’ll be seeing them this weekend. It’ll be a mad rush to come in and buy things ... whether it’s ice melt or roof rakes or car scrapers.”

Even after the snow starts falling, there will be a steady flow of people stopping in to replace their broken snow shovels or to buy rolls of tube sand to weigh down their vehicles for winter travel, she said.

The only difference this year is that the first significant storm is arriving a bit later than usual, Adams said.

“It’s just been delayed,” she said. “It just means it’ll probably go on for a couple of months now.”

The region won’t be alone preparing for the January storm.

AccuWeather was cautioning parts of Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia to get ready for a “dangerous” wintry mix this weekend, with ice threatening to lead to lengthy power outages across the Tennessee Valley and the southeast. Forecasters in North Carolina were projecting that the winter storm could be that state’s worst since 2018.

For Somerset County’s weather-dependent winter tourism industry, the storm could be a welcome guest. Thanks to a mild winter, only a fraction of the slopes and trails at Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Hidden Valley Resort have been open recently. Colder air this week is expected to enable additional terrain to be groomed for skiers Saturday, spokesman Alex Moser said.

“Come Monday morning, it is indeed possible everything could be open,” he said.

Roadway restrictions

PennDOT is asking motorists to avoid unnecessary travel Sunday and Monday.

Storm-related vehicle and speed restrictions will be in place in the region for several busy roadways, effective starting 3 p.m. Sunday. The Pennsylvania Turnpike, U.S. Route 22 and all interstates south of I-80 – including I-99 and I-79 – will be placed in “Tier 2” of the state’s weather event restriction plan.

That means the following vehicles will not be permitted to travel on the roads until the restrictions are lifted:

• Tractors without trailers and tractors towing unloaded trailers, open trailers, tank trailers or tandem trailers.

• Designated “enclosed cargo delivery trucks.”

• Sport utility vehicles or passenger cars towing trailers.

• Motorcycles, RVs and buses.

Pennsylvania motorists can also visit the site to check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles. The site provides traffic delay warnings, speed information and color-coded winter conditions.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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