A major winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow and sleet on Saucon Valley area roads Tuesday is still causing headaches for local public works departments and PennDOT road crews, as well as motorists and pedestrians.
“What the heck is with Main Street in Hellertown?” Jason Ship-toski posted on the Hellertown borough Facebook page. “Why are the plows not cleaning the rest of the snow and ice off of the road? It’s like driving down a dirt road with potholes!”
The storm was forecast to be an all-snow event for the Lehigh Valley, but instead sleet (ice pellets) fell heavily for several hours Tuesday morning, which Hellertown borough council president Tom Rieger said caused the compaction of ice on Main Street (Rt. 412).
Snow removal on the two state roads in the borough was “under control when we got the sleet and ice,” he said. At that time the side roads were still snow-covered.
“All that ice laid on top and was easily cleaned off,” he said, “whereas on the state roads…sleet and ice became compacted since there was not much ‘snow’ on them.”
Rieger called the situation “horrible timing” and said PennDOT was called in Wednesday morning to apply “a heavy rock salt and liquid brine” solution to Main Street, which by mid-afternoon had melted some of the snowpack down to blacktop.
He said he anticipated the snow emergency in Hellertown would be lifted sometime later Wednesday afternoon. In the meantime, residents should not park on designated snow emergency routes.
The snow emergency in Lower Saucon Township was lifted at 10 a.m. Wednesday but problems with compacted snow and ice remained on major roads that PennDOT is responsible for maintaining.
One Saucon Source reader said the section of road that extends over South Mountain was so icy that it was temporarily closed to traffic by township police Tuesday evening, after several vehicles struggled to make it up and over the hill.
In response to a complaint by another resident, Dave Appolloni, posted on the township’s Facebook page Wednesday, the township responded that major roads like “Black River Road, Friedensville Road, Route 378, and…Route 412…are all PennDOT roads. The township does not plow the state-owned roads.”
The resident was advised to contact PennDOT’s District 5-0 office with his concerns by calling 610-250-1840. He was also told that the township has done the same.
At around 8 a.m. Wednesday a car apparently became stuck in traffic at the top of the hill and a northbound minivan was observed sliding backwards on Rt. 378 just south of Seidersville Road.
Over the mountain, in South Bethlehem, the traffic situation at the busy Five Points intersection at the bottom of Wyandotte Hill was so severe that it was temporarily closed for emergency snow removal, causing further congestion on Rt. 378.
Adding to residents’ confusion about who maintains which major road is the fact that–as opposed to Lower Saucon Township–in Hellertown borough the public works department has a contract with PennDOT to plow and treat Main Street.
Rieger said this agreement has been in place for many years.
On Wednesday, as light snow continued to fall on the area and temperatures remained well below freezing, Dewey Fire Company officials reminded residents to clear snow from around their fire hydrants, as they are required by law to do.
Dewey volunteers were out removing snow from around some hydrants, but others remained buried, causing a safety concern, since the inability to quickly connect a hose to a hydrant could become a matter of life and death in the event of a blaze.
The weather forecast for the next couple days isn’t likely to help melt snow on roads, walkways and around hydrants, either, as daytime temperatures are forecast to remain below freezing until at least Friday and nighttime lows will be in the teens, resulting in significant refreezing of anything that melts.
A winter weather advisory has been issued by the National Weather Service through 8 p.m. Wednesday for up to two new inches of snow and blowing snow.
“Isolated snow squalls today could lead to additional quick snow accumulations, reduced visibility and exacerbating already hazardous driving conditions,” NWS said.
Specific snow-related questions and concerns should be directed to both Hellertown borough (610-838-7041) and Lower Saucon Township (610-865-3291).
A Lower Saucon Township Council meeting is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem.