The Philadelphia region was bracing on Friday for heavy snow, with Philadelphia declaring a snow emergency and advising residents to stay off roads, and New Jersey declaring a state of emergency.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared the state of emergency effective 5 p.m. Friday, in anticipation of much of the state getting walloped by snow.
”We are preparing for a significant statewide snow event,” Murphy said, asking people to stay home. He said the eastern half of the state could see snowfall totals ranging from 8 inches to a foot, and up to 18 inches or more along the Shore.
“And if that’s not enough, we’re also expecting strong and potentially damaging winds of up to 50 miles per hour. ... Our advice to everyone is to be prepared to hunker down once you get home this afternoon and stay home. Stay home tonight, and stay home tomorrow.”
Murphy said all state offices were closed earlier on Friday. He said his office would be coordinating with officials from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts to ensure safe interstate travel.
In Philadelphia, which is expected to see as much as 8 inches of snow, the snow emergency began at 7 p.m. Friday. The emergency meant all parked vehicles must be moved off the city’s snow emergency routes for plowing, according to a city statement.
“Crews will continue snow operations until all conditions are safe for travel,” Acting Managing Director Vanessa Garrett Harley said in a statement. “However, this storm is expected to bring heavy snow and wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour which can reduce visibility for people driving due to blowing snow. Residents should be mindful of fallen tree limbs and possible power and signal outages.”
With temperatures expected to drop into the 20s Saturday, Garrett Harley cautioned drivers to expect slick conditions and freezing on the roads. She encouraged residents to stay home and off the roads, if possible.
The city canceled much of its programming and resources ahead of the snow.
All city-run COVID-19 testing sites, including health centers, resource hubs, and mobile testing vans that were scheduled to be open Saturday were canceled, as were school district after-school and athletic activities for Friday and a vaccine clinic Saturday.
While officials across the region urged people to stay off the roads, crews were pretreating them and preparing for plowing. PennDOT crews started brining roads Wednesday, spokesperson Brad Rudolph said. Unlike other storms the past few years, Rudolph said the agency has a full complement of workers despite the overall national and local labor shortage and the pandemic.
”We just went through our roster and we seem to be OK,” Rudolph said. “But in previous storms COVID has certainly been a challenge and we’ve had to use other resources.”
PennDOT has about 165 to 170 trucks that can brine, salt, and plow for the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania area, including Philadelphia. Crews have already brined some of the major roads, such as Broad Street, Woodhaven Road, and the Schuylkill Expressway, as well as interstates such as I-95. It works with the city to ensure coverage.
PennDOT, like many other government agencies, has been increasingly cautious about using rock salt because of the impact on streams and rivers. So it’s turned to brining because it drastically dilutes the level of sodium chloride. Overall, crews cover about 11,000 snow-lane miles. Rudolph said PennDOT can also pull from 275 contractors with trucks if needed.
“We can fill in any missing pieces by bringing them in,” Rudolph said. “We’re prepared.”
The forecast has been a moving target throughout the week, and meteorologists had cautioned that almost any outcome was possible, and whatever happens, areas just to the west of the heavier snow shield might well be shut out.
Late Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service was calling for 6 to 8 inches in the immediate Philadelphia area, while much of South Jersey was expected to deal with blizzard conditions, with as much as 18 inches expected in Atlantic City.
Wind chills could dip below zero Saturday night across the region.
Atlantic City’s public works crews have been preparing for the blizzard since Thursday morning, said Rebekah Mena, spokesperson for the city, with brining continuing through Friday. Crews were brining city streets from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday, and would continue to brine before the snow starts Friday, she said.
“We are fully staffed and fully mobilized,” said Mena. “Working in shift work to ensure that we quite literally have the 24-hour clock covered.”
The Atlantic City Mayor’s Office has been encouraging residents to stay indoors and off the streets, unless travel and driving was critical, said Mena.
Starting late Friday afternoon., coinciding with New Jersey’s state of emergency, the city began enforcing its snow emergency evacuation routes, which means that cars cannot be parked on main arteries and the streets used to come into and out of the city.
“That’s mainly to give some more room to our public works folks to navigate the streets,” said Mena.
To help provide alternate parking, the city arranged with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to offer free parking in the parking garage of the Wave lounge, at the Golden Nugget Casino, said Mena, starting Friday afternoon.
The heaviest snow was expected to start falling Friday after dark, going all the way to Saturday afternoon, said Patrick O’Hara, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy said his county has enough staffing and the Office of Emergency Management is ready for the blizzard conditions expected along the coast in towns such as Toms River.
“We’ll be fine,” Mastronardy said. “Right now we have a couple of meetings scheduled today to make sure we’re ready and we believe we are. We have officers out on snow patrol. We’ll monitor outages and power outages and we’re scheduling people that need dialysis or other medical issues and emergencies.”
Staff writer Robert Moran contributed to this article.