Philadelphia region copes with winter storm travel conditions

Mark Abrams
February 20, 2019 - 6:54 am
Winter weather congestion alert in South Jersey

David Madden/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 5.58 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The winter storm spreading across the Philadelphia region has had an impact on flight operations into the East.

"At this time, there is about 100 total flights that have been cancelled so far," said Diane Gerace, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia International Airport. "We expect that this total could possibly climb throughout the day as the conditions worsen."

Crews are out plowing the runways and de-icing planes here to keep the airport open for limited traffic.

"It's important to know that this is going to be a day-long impact and it may also stretch into tomorrow morning," Gerace added.  

The Federal Aviation Administration has put a traffic management program in place at the airport, which could mean delays of up to an hour and five minutes for arriving flights.

"You have the weather out in the Midwest that is causing it's own travel disruptions," Gerace said. "But we also have the weather that is moving into the Northeast and that is impacting us directly."

READ: Community Cancellations

She says passengers with a ticket for a flight scheduled for Wednesday might want to contact the airline to re-schedule it. Gerace says a number of airlines are waiving change fees because of the conditions.

Also Gerace says anyone planning on picking someone up from the airport should contact the airline to make sure their flight actually took off for Philly or to confirm if there are any delays.

At Newark Liberty International Airport there are delays of nearly four hours. 

Both JFK and La Guardia airports in New York have flight delays of about two and a half hours.

Road crews in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are engaged in plowing and salting operations, but the many accidents out there are slowing those folks down, too.

RELATED: How drivers can prepare for an emergency during a winter storm

"We're going to keep the roads moving, but motorists should keep in mind they will be snow covered roads. Use caution, watch their speeds, and of course give our plows plenty of space, plenty of room so they can do their job," said PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph.

He says the plan is to keep roads as clear as possible with the plows, but trucks will likely change back over to more salt and brine work when the snow stops and that sleet moves in. But things change in a flash, so officials will likely be adjusting on the fly as the day moves on.

PennDOT has announced reduced speeds, urging motorists to avoid unnecessary travel but those who must head out will see speeds reduced to 45 mph on the following highways: 

  • Interstates 76, 95, 295, 476, 676
  • U.S. Routes 1, 30, 202, 422
  • State Routes 63, 100 Spur and 309

"We're focused very much on the evening commute and getting kids home safely from school, so that's our big focus and ask everybody to be really careful out there," Rudolph said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's emergency declaration took effect at 5 a.m. 

He spoke on KYW Newsradio live Wednesday morning about the conditions of the road, urging commuters to give the plow and salt truck drivers a bit of a break in terms of letting them do the job, and not passing them. If they want to get by you, let them through.

RELATED: Gov. Phil Murphy declares state of emergency ahead of snow storm

NJDOT has announced the commercial vehicle travel restrictions that were placed earlier in the day have been lifted as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. 

With the threat of a changeover to ice in some areas, Murphy asked residents to be aware of the threat of power outages. 

"Please call it in immediately. Don't assume your neighbors have done so. The more calls your provider gets the better they can focus resources to restore power. And, please God, if you see a downed line, don't go near it at any cost and call it in as well," he said. 

Atlantic City Electric is reporting only a handful of scattered outages in Washington and Mullica townships.

Meanwhile, PECO has less than 500 customers in scattered outages in Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Amtrak is reporting some delays on the Northeast Corridor service, including one Acela train that's running about an hour late due to mechanical issues east of Philadelphia.

As for SEPTA, they're anticipating an early rush hour, so they're putting into place their "Early Exit" schedule beginning at 1 p.m.

That means nine regional rail trains, which are regularly scheduled to run in the evening, will be moved up to early afternoon service.

"We move some trains up from the normal p.m. rush hour, the 4, 5, or 6 o'clock range, down to between 1 and 2 to accomodate folks who need to get home early, and it also helps us obviously by keeping things moving, we don't get a back log of people," said SEPTA's Andrew Busch. 

"It doesn't cover every one of our regional rail lines but it covers some of the most heavily traveled lines where we expect to see some heavier traffic as folks get out of work early."

There are also weather-related detours on several of the bus routes.

Check SEPTA's website for more information.

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KYW Newsradio's Dan Wing contributed to this report.