The winter storm is coming to Berks

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Heavy snowfall in Berks County on Saturday morning brought dangerous driving conditions, as the late winter storm led to multiple Interstate 78 closures and multiple injuries.

Fast-falling snow, high winds, whiteout conditions and icy build-up made driving dangerous across the county, and PennDOT urged motorists to avoid travel if possible.

Shortly after 9 a.m., a crash involving up to 15 vehicles closed the westbound lanes of I-78 in northwest Berks, according to emergency dispatches. Several people were transported to area hospitals after the accident, which involved at least two tractor-trailers and an overturned vehicle.

Around the same time, there was an accident in the eastbound lanes which also closed that direction of the freeway.

The causeway was still closed in both directions in the afternoon between the Strausstown and Midway exits.

Another crash occurred shortly after 1 p.m. along westbound I-78 in Upper Tulpehocken Township with six vehicles and four reported injuries, according to emergency dispatches.

Further details about these crashes were not immediately available.

Many businesses and events are closed due to weather.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning that will remain in effect until 7 p.m. Saturday and predicted blizzard-like conditions with winds blowing up to 50 mph.

AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines said the storm started as rain in Berks around 5 a.m. and snow started falling around 8 a.m. By the time it subsided around noon, about four inches of snow had fallen over much of Berks and was accompanied by strong winds.

While PennDOT urged motorists to avoid unnecessary travel, it said those who needed to exit would have their speed reduced to 45 mph on Interstate 78 in Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties; Route 422 in Berks County; Route 222 in Berks and Lehigh counties; and the length of Interstate 176.

Any wet surfaces will likely remain frozen Saturday evening through Sunday morning as temperatures remained in the teens and approached freezing due to wind, Kimes said.

Sunday was expected to be partly sunny with temperatures in the 30s, but by Monday those temperatures are expected to reach the 50s and later in the week could reach the 60s, he said.

Although National Weather Service data shows that March 12 was not typically a snow day in the Berks area, there have been several heavy snowstorms on other March dates in recent years.

In 2019, nearly 10 inches fell on several days in early March, while 12 inches fell on March 21, 2018, and 12 inches fell on March 13, 2017, Kimes said.

While the long-range forecast posted by AccuWeather online predicts no more snow this winter or spring, Kimes wasn’t ready to make that prediction just yet.

“March is an unstable month,” he said.

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