People flock to stores to prepare for impending snowstorm

- At the Home Depot on Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia workers could hardly keep shovels and salt in stock. A predicted mid-March nor'easter has customers racing back to the store to prepare to battle mother nature.

Keith Hunter was loading bags of salt for use at a homeless shelter in the city's Spring Garden neighborhood.

"We're supposed to get 12 to 16 inches," said Hunter. "I am not sure, but I'm going to be prepared."

The city streets department is ready to clear more than 2200 miles of roadways  expected to be buried by Tuesday mid-morning.  400 vehicles will hit the streets first to salt, later to plow. It will be tough going, says chief highway engineer Steve Lorenz.

"The biggest challenge is the rate that it is coming down. It's going to come down 1 to 2 inches per hour and it just hampers the visibility of the driver," said Lorenz, at the city's largest salt depository, at 63rd and Essington. "As soon as we do a pass the street will probably be covered within the next 10 to 15 minutes. You won't even tell we were there."

SEPTA has already announced schedule reductions for Tuesday. 

And  a snow emergency has been declared for the city, meaning parked cars must clear out of major arteries by 9 p.m. Monday.

MORE:  Philadelphia snow emergency starts at 9 p.m., SEPTA making changes

With a mild winter so far-- just a couple of minor storms-- the city is in good shape: 50,000 tons of road salt ready for use, and officials say their equipment is in better shape than this time last year-- including smaller vehicles for use in clearing  side streets. 

 "That's our goal," said Lorenz to FOX 29's Bruce Gordon. "to try and make every street in the city passable. May take a little bit longer on some streets because of the tightness of the street and the way folks are parked but we will make sure to get down every street."

The sight of snow shovels sitting next to spring flowers  at the home center may seem crazy. But with we've had enough of this yo-yo whether to turn some folks into experts.

Kelli Rowan of South Philadelphia says she predicted this big storm, "Because the last year around this time we had something. It was too warm and then with the cold air coming we had a good storm."  

Any thought of becoming a big time meteorologist, with the pressure that comes along with it?

"No!" Said Rowan, laughing.


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