Early morning rain turned to snow Saturday in the Lehigh Valley, with the National Weather Service predicting heavy snowfall from mid-morning to late afternoon across the region.
Snowfall totals ranging from 5 to 8 inches are predicted for the Lehigh Valley, northwestern New Jersey, the Pocono Mountains and Berks County, resulting in hazardous driving conditions as accumulations build over roads, the weather service said.
Allentown’s March 12 record snowfall is 7.2 inches in 1959.
“Heavy snowfall rates and near-blizzard conditions are likely in the late morning and early afternoon,” the weather service said Saturday morning during a storm briefing.
At Lehigh Valley International Airport, temperatures are expected to drop to around 26 degrees around 4 p.m. Saturday, with an overnight low through Sunday morning around 16 degrees, according to the weather service. Normal high and low temperatures for this time of year at the airport outside of Allentown are 49 and 29.
“Flash frost on untreated sidewalks and wet pavement may occur this afternoon and evening as temperatures quickly drop below freezing,” the briefing continues.
A winter storm warning remains in effect from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday in Lehigh, Northampton and Warren counties, with that area also subject to a wind advisory from 10 a.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday.
- CONTINUED: How much snow will we have on Saturday? Our map shows total snowfall by city.
Northwest winds of 20 to 30 mph gusting up to 50 mph “could blow around unsecured objects,” the advisory said. “Tree branches could be knocked down and some power outages could result. Strong winds pick up late this morning and continue into the afternoon. There may be a lull tonight before the winds pick up again.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reduced speed limits on Saturday for “those who must get out,” while “urging motorists to avoid unnecessary travel.”
Speed limits are reduced to 45 mph on highways, including Highway 22 in Lehigh and Northampton counties; Interstate 78 from Berks through Northampton Counties; Route 33 in Northampton and Monroe counties; and Interstate 80 from Carbon County east to the New Jersey line.
PennDOT also announced:
- Tier 4 Vehicle Restrictions on Interstate 80 in Monroe and Carbon Counties; Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County; Interstate 380 in Monroe County; Route 33 in Monroe and Northampton counties. This means that no commercial vehicles are allowed, as well as school buses, commercial buses, motor coaches, motorcycles, recreational vehicles/RVs and passenger vehicles (cars, SUVs, vans, etc.) towing trailers.
- Level 1 restrictions on Interstate 78 in Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties and on Route 22 in Lehigh and Northampton counties. Under Tier 1 restrictions, the following vehicles are not permitted: Tractors without trailers; tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded closed trailers, open trailers or tank trailers; tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded tandem trailers; enclosed cargo delivery trucks that meet the definition of a VMC; passenger vehicles (cars, SUVs, vans, etc.) towing trailers; recreational vehicles/campers; school buses, commercial buses and motor coaches not carrying chains or reciprocating traction devices (ATD); and motorcycles.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation also announced vehicle restrictions beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, including commercial vehicle restrictions applying to all tractor-trailers, CDL weighted empty straight trucks, passenger vehicles pulling trailers, recreational vehicles and motorcycles on the highways including I-78 and I-80 from the Pennsylvania border to Interstate 95 (New Jersey Turnpike).
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Kurt Bresswein can be reached at [email protected].