‘Snowmageddon’ paralyzes Pittsburgh

Written By Sarit Gabrielle

The heavy snowfall that blanketed the city the first weekend of February has created a host of problems for local residents.

The Feb. 5-6 snowstorm – the fourth largest in Pittsburgh history – dumped 21.1 inches on the area, burying roads and making bus routes impassable.

Despite the general frustration with the sheer amount of snow, most college students enjoyed the days off of school. Students could be found sledding down almost every hill in Oakland and some Point Park University students organized a snowball fight Downtown.

Andrew Bowersox, a junior sport, arts and entertainment management major, played football every afternoon with his friends. He also used the time to get caught up on schoolwork and “scavenge for food,” as the Point Cafe and most other restaurants Downtown were closed.

“[The snow] provided some difficulties, mostly in getting food, but it was worth it­, having off, having fun with the guys,” Bowersox said.

With Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl celebrating his birthday at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, plowing and snow removal got off to a late start, making the task of clearing the roads nearly impossible. Many roads were already packed with ice by the time the plows reached them.

Most bus routes stopped running around 9 p.m. on Friday after Port Authority told bus drivers to pull off to the side of the road, warning conditions were too dangerous to continue the routes.

On Saturday, Allegheny County officials declared a state of emergency. In light of the snow, Pittsburgh International Airport shut down operations for the day and Allegheny County public schools announced week-long closures.

Chelsea Hoskinson, junior sport, arts and entertainment management major, took the opportunity to stay in and relax in her campus suite for a few days.

“I didn’t leave my suite at all . . . eventually I got very anxious. I finally ventured out on Monday,” Hoskinson said.

Most people took to the streets on foot Saturday, walking rather than digging buried cars out of the snow and traversing the icy terrain. Many cross-country skiers were spotted in Shadyside and Squirrel Hill, apparently delighted at the opportunity to ski in the city.

Grocery stores were packed with people now stocking up for two reasons: the storm and the Super Bowl. Along with chips and salsa, carts were brimming with gallons of water, bread and batteries. Checkout lines extended far into the aisles as a never-ending stream of snow-shocked Pittsburghers flowed in and out of the stores.

The Army National Guard arrived on Sunday, Feb. 7. Humvees – military-class vehicles that can easily drive through large amounts of snow – were called into the city to aid in emergency situations. They have been assisting paramedics and firefighters, as well as helping snowed-in patients get to hospitals and important medical appointments.

“I think Point Park did a better job cleaning up than any other school. I was walking by Duquesne and their sidewalks were a mess,” Deanne Zatho, a junior sport, arts and entertainment major, said.

Allegheny Power struggled to restore electricity to nearly 280,000 customers. On Feb. 12 they reported more than 12,000 customers were still without power.

This prompted Pennsylvania State Rep. Peter Daley to call for an investigation into the emergency response to the wintery weather.

“There are still thousands of people without power,” Daley said in a statement released on Feb. 12. “This is unacceptable that a week later my residents are still struggling. We want to investigate what delayed the response and search for ways to permanently fix the problem.”

Daley will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, Mar. 3. The hearing will feature four panel group discussions from first and secondary responders, constituent representatives and utility companies.

In some instances, the heavy snow accumulation was simply too much for certain structures to bear. Several roofs have collapsed on houses and buildings both in and outside of the city.

The National Guard will be staying in the city until snow is out of the forecast. According to meteorologists, that is not likely to happen anytime soon.