When the temperature crept over 70 on Saturday afternoon, it was a boon to anyone who wanted to take a ride on the bike they unwrapped at Christmas or throw a Frisbee in a park.
The spate of unusually mild January weather Southwestern Pennsylvania has been enjoying has also been a blessing for municipalities that have not had to deploy crews to spread salt on icy or snow-covered roads.
Tom Lovell, the public works director for North Strabane Township, said his department would probably have used three times as much road salt at this point in a more typical January. While many residents of the region have been able to leave their own snow shovels and bags of salt untouched since winter officially arrived last month, crews in North Strabane have had to venture out on select occasions to treat some spots on roads after snow has fallen, but not to the extent they have in previous winters.
In the absence of noteworthy snowfalls, crews in South Fayette Township have been able to tend to other jobs, like mending roads and fixing storm drains, according to Andrea Iglar, the township’s communications director.
“Instead of waiting until spring, they’re doing that now,” she explained.
Iglar also said the township had used less salt so far this year compared to last year, “but it’s the weather, so you never know when it’s going to catch up with us.”
The average high temperature this time of year is 35 degrees, according to Jenna Lake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon Township, so forecast highs in the 50s today and Wednesday will still be well above the norm even if they are not as sultry as Saturday’s temperatures. Much of the unseasonal warmth is due to a high pressure system that has settled in over the region. Lake said more typical weather would probably be arriving by the end of the month.
She also pointed out that region has received about 9 inches of snow so far this season, but that it’s been of the “nickel and dime” variety.
Sales of salt and snow shovels have been lagging compared to last year at Busy Beaver hardware store in Washington, said Dan Leach, the store’s general manager. He said the store generally experiences an influx of customers when the forecast calls for snow.
And that eventually could come, of course. February and March are looming just over the horizon.
“It’s out of our control,” Lovell said. “We just have to be prepared for it.”