HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A snow squall caused an 80-car pileup on I-81 north in Schuylkill County in February of 2022; Six people died.
A weather radar gap, meaning people did not get warnings on their phones or computers, was partially responsible. So has anything been done to fix the radar gap?
The National Weather Service issued 15 snow squall warnings on the day of the pileup, but no warning was issued for the section of I-81 north where the accident happened.
“That part of 81 there is a gap in the radar,” said abc27 Meteorologist Dan Tomaso.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) says they have no control over where federal weather radars are placed. But in an effort to improve safety, PennDOT is expanding its pilot program which puts up signs to help reduce speed and cut down on accidents.
“I think if everyone saw the videos from last year the first thing you look at is no one is slowing down. This is an opportunity to let motorists know that conditions are going to turn on them. When the speed limits are reduced, the yellow lights at the top and bottom of the VSL will be flashing to make sure motorists are aware of the change,” said Mike Keiser, Acting Deputy Secretary for PennDOT.
PennDOT also installed three extra road weather information systems in the are of the I-81 north pileup. The systems track road conditions and information from the National Weather Service.
Whiteout conditions can happen very quickly, so it’s important to issue a warning as soon as possible. With no radar available in that area, warning the public can be a difficult task.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission says there are steps being taken at the federal level to improve severe weather warnings.
“There is an effort at NOAA to try to better pin point these white out events when they occur. We’re hoping that with more knowledge and more attention being thrown at the issue, that each year, and hopefully this year, we will begin to mitigate the risk of those events,” said Craig Shuey, COO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
However, the federal government has not announced any specific plans to address the radar gap in the Midstate.