‘S’no more! Snowstorm cripples city

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Pittsburgh is still trying to unbury itself from a snowstorm that blanketed the city with approximately two feet of snow Feb. 5 and 6. However, with many roads still barely accessible and houses without power the city must brace itself for another six-10 inches predicted to fall Feb. 9 and 10.

At the peak of the storm late Feb. 5, Duquesne Light was reporting more than 50,000 customers with power outages. By Feb. 6, that number was down to 14,000, and by Feb. 7, just over 5,000. Most were in suburban areas, but they were spotty.

SnowCovered
SNOW COVERED—Like many city streets, Wymore Street in Elliot was covered with more than 20 inches of snow after the storm ended Saturday.

Just north of the city in Ross Township and Bellevue, residents had power. But from Avalon all the way to through Leetsdale, electricity was out for up to 40 hours. And just across the Beaver County line, in Ambridge and Aliquippa power remained on.

Dessaray Martin, a shopper at the Quaker Valley Giant Eagle in Leetsdale said she lost power at her home in Coraopolis for about eight hours, but it was enough.

“I’d just gone grocery shopping, so I had to re-buy everything,” she said. “But I don’t have any kids or pets, and the pipes didn’t freeze, so it wasn’t that bad.”

Wanda Peake, a cashier at the Giant Eagle was scheduled to work Saturday, but could not get there from her home in Aliquippa.

“Aliquippa’s a disaster area,” she said. “I didn’t lose power, but live on a hill and none of the three roads down were clear. There was no way I was getting here. One road’s open now—but they’re calling for more snow.”

With power out for almost two days, the Giant Eagle had to discard a lot of stock. Shoppers who came in after the power was restored found, no produce, no meat or fish, no frozen or refrigerated foods, and no dairy products. But by Monday the 8th, the shelves were almost entirely restocked.

It was the same at the Costco store in Robinson Township, by Monday, all the produce, meat, dairy products and fish were restocked—with one exception, the live lobsters.

Shopper Julius Ellerbe, a former Washington, D.C.  police officer from Beaver County, said the storm was an inconvenience, but he was philosophical about it.

“If I was a kid, I’d have been out riding a sled and loving it,” he said. “In 1965, we had four feet of snow in Washington. Nobody could drive so everyone walked—and people met neighbors they never knew. People came together. They helped each other. Same this time—it’s all how you look at it.”

A trip through the city’s neighborhoods shows other residents share Ellerbe’s sentiment as many can still be found helping their neighbors shovel out cars and clear sidewalks. In some cases, neighbors have banded together to shovel entire streets that seem to have been ignored by snowplows.

According to an emergency update from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Feb. 8, all City plows were rerouted off of the City’s main roads and on to neighborhood streets that morning. Clearing off secondary or tertiary streets will help to normalize Port Authority of Allegheny County bus service, much of which has been running on its emergency route schedule.

Vernard Alexander, founder of the Minority Networking Exchange, moderates a “Questions of the Night” forum on his Facebook page. On Feb. 8 one of the night’s questions asked how participants felt snow removal had been handled in their neighborhood.

Out of approximately 50 responses, the Hill District received the worst reviews with one person likening it to World War III.  Some neighborhoods received contradicting reviews, but the highest praise came from areas outside of the city in Penn Hills, Bethel Park and Forest Hills.

While some people feel that the snowstorm was an inconvenience, other residents feel that they were prepared enough and ready for what Mother Nature was going to bring.

“I was not inconvenienced. I heard it was coming, so I prepared myself for the worst,” said Chris Chapman of the North Side. “I bought food, salt and a new shovel. And I am still prepared for the next one. That’s my theme for life—be prepared.”

(Chris Morrow contributed to the story.)

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