Major snowstorm blankets Greencastle

Aleia Hildreth, 7, of Greencastle, enjoys the snow.

The weekend snowstorm probably couldn't have been prettier. Many residents paused to take in the scenery and snap photographs before grabbing a shovel or powering up the snowblower. The area was blanketed with 13.5 inches from Friday to Saturday evening. Without measurable winds, it fell quietly and steadily, resulting in a winter wonderland, a white Christmas and a new playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

Greencastle weather observer Robert Wertime recorded the official measurement and tracked the storm from beginning to end. The first flakes appeared suddenly at 10:15 p.m. Dec. 18 and the last cascaded down at 10:30 p.m. Dec. 19. He, his mother P.J. and sister Rebecca took turns watching the weather, as they do during significant events. A few flurries between midnight and 2 a.m. Sunday were inconsequential, he said.

"This is a 50-year storm event for December, from all the data I've seen," Wertime stated. "Meteorologists seem to agree this is an historic snow."

It moved in from the south and went east, causing dangerous travel, cancelled airline flights and weekend activities, and interrupted schedules for people who had to go to work. No accidents were reported locally.

Municipal officials said the road crews were out while most of the population slept. Antrim Township administrator Brad Graham said the first team started plowing at 4 a.m. Saturday. After a full day, the second shift went through the night. The rotation continued Sunday.

"Our roads are in pretty good shape," he said Monday. "They were doing their best to keep up because the snow was falling fast and furious. We were stocked with anti-skid stones and ice melt, and ready to go. It's a testament to Paul (Minnich, roadmaster)."

The full-and part-time employees also spent the early part of the week clearing the intersections and making second runs to remove the slush, caused by temperatures reaching the mid-30s under the sunshine.

Greencastle Borough manager Kenneth Womack was also pleased with his street department. "Dave (Nichols, public works manager) has been doing this a long time. He knows when to start pretreatment and plowing, and our stockpiles were good."

Borough crews salted Friday night and put in 14 hours plowing on Saturday. Nichols said they experienced packed ice but were able to get in three to four passes on most streets. At 2 a.m. Sunday they hit the roads again, continuing the staggered shifts, and also got into the alleys. By late Monday afternoon the huge snow piles in the four corners of Center Square were cleared.

Womack said the snow is hauled to the borough garage lot and to a farm by the reservoir. He and Graham noted all the drivers returned safe and sound with no major accidents.

Let it snow

Greencastle has seen 21.5 inches of snow in December. It all began Dec. 5 with 2.9 inches. Then 5.1 inches fell on Dec. 7 and 8, and this weekend the grass and fields were covered again. Wertime said the last batch equaled 1.58 inches of liquid melt, which worked out to a 1:9 ratio of liquid to snow. The standard is 1:10.

"This was a powdery snow," he said. "It's a good, moderate-density snow. It shovels heavier, but is good for skiing."

Whitetail Ski Resort marketing coordinator Mark See concurred. "We're excited. We have some of the best conditions ever at the resort in December."

Whitetail received 17 to 20 inches on the summit, and 18 of 21 ski trails are operational. The resort opened Dec. 12 and the tubing course on Dec. 18, hours before the storm arrived. The weather didn't deter the most die-hard customers.

"We had many out here Saturday during the storm," See said. "And we expect many this week from the DC area because their schools are out. There's no better place to enjoy a snow day."

With some precipitation expected later in the week, either as snow or sleet, borough residents are reminded that snow and ice must be removed from sidewalks within 12 hours after a storm ends. Nichols acknowledged that people complain about snow getting plowed into their driveways, but they can't shovel it back into the street.

"It is unlawful to deposit snow or ice next to a fire hydrant or any sidewalk, road or loading and unloading areas of a public transportation system," he said. The borough tries to balance their concerns with the need to clear the streets as quickly as possible.

The Greencastle-Antrim School District, as with all Franklin County schools, had a two-hour delay on Monday.

The beauty of Christmas and snow was evident Saturday evening in this photo submitted by Zach and Marissa Burt.