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Format: 04/25/2014
Format: 04/25/2014


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Snowstorm touches 'primal' fears

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

By Jeremy Boren and Jill King Greenwood
The prospect of spending a snowy Super Bowl weekend without milk, bread, chips and salsa drove some shoppers to snake two or three carts at a time through packed checkout lines and grocery store parking lots Friday.

"We were definitely planning for significant panic-type buying," said Paul Abbott, manager at the Market District Giant Eagle in Bethel Park, where the lines were 20-deep. "And that's exactly what we're seeing."

The huge snowstorm blew into the mid-Atlantic with predictions of a record 30 inches or more for the nation's capital, and authorities warned the region's second snowstorm in less than two months could be "extremely dangerous," with heavy, wet snow and strong winds that could knock out power. Snow began falling around noon.

Across Pennsylvania, crews salted thousands of miles of roads, and schools and some government offices dismissed early. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said it was communicating with counties via electronic message boards and conference calls to marshal resources if local officials reported problems. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said travelers could get real-time roadway and weather information by calling toll-free 866-976-TRIP (8747).

"We've got more than 2,200 trucks, plows and salt spreaders that are available all around the state," PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said.

Nevertheless, road crews were having trouble keeping up with all the snow.

PennDOT said portions of the Parkway West inbound, the Parkway North outbound and Route 19 in both directions were closed after several accidents. The Port Authority ordered all of its drivers to pull to the side of the road shortly after 9 p.m. because of "worsening and very dangerous conditions," spokesman Jim Ritchie said.

Allegheny Power was reporting more than 6,800 customers without power last night. Some 4,000 Duquesne Light customers in Beaver and Allegheny counties also were without service.

Predictions of up to 12 inches of snow for the Pittsburgh area -- and up to two feet in cities to the south and east -- hit a nerve of fear in people accustomed to images of disaster as TV news devote teams of reporters to storms, and government agencies and schools announce early closures.

"There's no doubt that there is a very deep, primal thing that awakens in people when there's an impending storm and the skies darken," said Fred Gadomski, a meteorologist at Penn State University. "People hear weather forecasters today, and I think they tap into that same primal instinct to seek shelter and ride out the storm."

Fear of a huge snowstorm is more "exaggerated reaction" than full-blown phobia, said Dr. P.V. Nickell, chairman of the psychiatry department at Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side.

"Since 9/11, there's heightened coverage of disaster stories," Nickell said. "In our parents' day, we might have had a picture in the paper a few days after a disaster. Now, we have high-definition, color images on 24/7 television news. It sensitizes us to it and shows us what can happen."

To read more, visit the Tribune-Review website.

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