Lesson Background HTML
In February 2007, a winter storm in the Northeast United States significantly disrupted travel across several Mid-Atlantic States. The storm hit the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania particularly hard, due to a mix of northerly snow and southerly freezing rain that coated much of Pennsylvania’s primary and secondary roads. As road conditions deteriorated, vehicles became stuck in the snow and several tractor trailers jackknifed, blocking entrance and/or exit ramps to the interstates. The resulting traffic backups were huge, covered large sections of the interstates, and lasted long periods of time, leaving hundreds of motorists stranded for hours. Some motorists were stuck on the roads overnight and others were stranded for long 20 hours. Some sections of the interstates allowed travel speeds of just one mile per hour. After the storm passed, road conditions remained so bad that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) closed parts of Interstates 78, 80 and 81 from February 15 through February 17.
Immediately after the storm had passed, the Governor of Pennsylvania held a press conference to express his concern that the state’s emergency response was flawed. He called for an independent investigator to review the state’s preparations for and response to the emergency, the communications between state agencies and the traveler information systems. The resulting investigation revealed multiple problems in the preparation for severe winter weather and the management of its response. The Lesson Learned below highlights the independent investigator's key findings on the Commonwealth's transportation operations and readiness.
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