8:15 p.m.: Some 1,800 PPL customers in Lancaster city have lost power after reports of utility wires on fire at North Shippen and E. Marion streets as well as South Shippen and Locust streets. Traffic lights in the area were also out. Fire crews reported branches across the lines.
5:50 p.m.: A winter storm warning remains in effect for Lancaster County until 8 a.m. Friday. Current freezing rain will turn to rain through the evening and much of the night, according to AccuWeather.com. The precipitation will likely end as a second period of heavy snow early Friday morning.
5:29 p.m.: Route 896 in Bart Township is the latest road to be closed in Lancaster County because of treacherous conditions.
Also closed in Valley Road in Manheim Township because of an accident and Route 741 in Millersville between Millersville Road and New Danville Pike.
5 p.m.: Valley Road is still closed as emergency crews are having a hard time reaching the scene of an accident involving a plow truck and a SUV involving entrapment near Brookfield Road in Manheim Township.
Ambulance crews were having a hard time reaching the trapped driver of the SUV because of slippery roads and traffic. A tow truck was called to lift the plow off of the SUV.
Accidents and vehicles stuck on slippery treats continues to climb with now more than 300 accidents or disabled vehicles reported to Lancaster County-Wide Communications since 11 a.m.
Crashes and calls to assist stuck vehicles have topped 323--more than one incident a minute around Lancaster County since the first accident was reported at 11:17 a.m. And that's not counting tree limbs that fell on roadways and wires knocked down in spots.
4:03 p.m.: In Lancaster city, police cautioned that "most roads with more than a slight incline are proving to be impassable for vehicles not equipped with all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive."
The 400 and 500 blocks of Church Street were closed between South Duke and South Queen streets.
"The conditions can best be described as marginal and, at worst, it is nothing short of a mess," police said as rush hour began.
Snow totals at 4 p.m. included 6.5 inches in Washington Boro, 6 inches in Akron, 5.75 inches in Millersville and 5.75 inches in Salunga.
3:23 p.m. The storm will bring the second-most snow on record to fall in Lancaster County before Thanksgiving.
According to records dating to 1926 at the Millersville University Weather Information Center, the only other time it snowed at least 5 inches before Thanksgiving was a 13-5-inch snow on Nov. 6, 1953. It also snowed 12 inches on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 24, 1938.
(2/2) But remember, late tonight will bring a wrap-around feature that should bring a final burst of snow sometime between 3 - 6am...and this could drop another 1- 2". So this mid-November storm will likely leave the county with 5-8" snow. pic.twitter.com/PkMoEwq9vk— E. Horst, MU WIC (@MUweather) November 15, 2018
The accident or disabled vehicles total has climbed to 275 around the county.
Every street or road with the slightest incline, it seemed, had cars spinning in place or sliding sideways, blocking traffic.
The roads were so treacherous that some county schools kept students from driving or being driven home.
At least one ambulance crew responding to a call called Lancaster County-Wide Communications to report they were stuck in traffic.
2:45 p.m.: Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst has revised his storm totals for Lancaster County to 5-8 inches. As of 2:30 p.m., 5 inches were measured by Horst at his home in Manheim Township.
"Dynamic cooling continues to fight off the warm air and changeover--a snow lover's dream--but a commuter's nightmare," Horst observed in a Tweet.
"And after our period of liquid precip this evening, I'm still concerned that a wrap-around band of snow can bring a burst of accumulation late tonight, just ahead of the AM rush hour."
2:33 p.m.: Due to poor conditions, all RRTA bus routes will suspend service until approx. 3 p.m when RRTA staff will reassess conditions. If conditions are still poor, RRTA buses will continue to not operate. All buses will sit at the end of the route or at Queen Street Station Transit Center.
Pretty much a worst case scenario on the roads now. Just like squeezing a wet snowball into an iceball, midday rush home has packed wet sleety snow into ice pack. #carefulfriends! pic.twitter.com/msJ5X6gQ0G— E. Horst, MU WIC (@MUweather) November 15, 2018
2 p.m.: The accident count continues to increase in Lancaster County with more than 180 vehicle accidents or disabled vehicles listed by 911 just before 2 p.m.
A few districts that announced early dismissals are keeping students at school because of road conditions.
Hempfield School District said some buses have been unable to complete routes for secondary students and are trying alternate routes. Elementary students are being held at their schools, according to a series of tweets.
As a result of excessive delays from secondary bus run, elementary schools have not yet started their PM routes. For the safety of our students, we have determined to hold all elementary students in their school bldgs until roads can receive additional treatments & plowing. (1/2)— Hempfield SD (@hempfield) November 15, 2018
"Because of the current road conditions/closure, students will be held at their school buildings until we receive notice from local police and road crews that conditions have improved," according to an emergency announcement on Manheim Central's website.
Other schools have posted updates about buses being delayed.
"Pretty much a worst case scenario on the roads now," Horst said in a tweet around 1:15 p.m., as wet, sleety snow is packed into the roads by midday traffic.
12:40 p.m.: More and more accidents are being reported in Lancaster County. By 12:40 p.m., there were over 120 across the county.
Motorists say roads are slippery and messy.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has reduced speeds on 45 mph on routes 283, 30, and 222 in Lancaster County.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike has reduced speeds to 45 mph from the Donegal Interchange to the Valley Forge Interchange.
Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst updated his storm outlook map to predict 2 to 5 inches of snow will fall in Lancaster County.
The snow and sleet is still expected to change to freezing rain and then drizzle.
Noon: Accidents are being reported around Lancaster County as snow falls steadily and sticks to roads.
Close to 50 vehicle accidents — which may not all be related to snow — were listed on the county's 911 dispatch list at noon.
Over 60 plows are out spreading salt, according to Scott Tanguy, director of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's maintenance center in Lancaster County. Spreading started at 7 a.m., he said.
"We're out treating roads right now primarily with salt. We'll continue to monitor and follow conditions throughout the day," Tanguy said. "If plowing is warranted, we'll do it."
The center has a stockpile of about 12,500 tons of salt to start the season, he said. Last winter about 15,000 tons of salt were spread in Lancaster County.
10:45 a.m.: Snow has started sticking to roads, especially bridges and overpasses, in Lancaster County.
Current temperatures are near freezing, according to AccuWeather.
Many school districts have announced early dismissals.
Millersville University meteorology students are launching a weather balloon to collect temperature, moisture, pressure and wind data over the Lancaster area. An instrument in the balloon will send data back to MU's Weather Center, according to director Eric Horst.
Some snow lovers are expressing concern that precip has begun as sleet. Don't fear, it will likely switch over to snow when intensity picks up--the miracle of dynamic cooling aloft! How long the snow/sleet continues remains the tricky call. But a brief thumping of snow is likely.— E. Horst, MU WIC (@MUweather) November 15, 2018
9:20 a.m.: A few Lancaster County schools have started announcing early dismissals as precipitation begins.
A wintry mix began falling in Lancaster city around 9:15 a.m.
8:40 a.m.: Precipitation could start in Lancaster County between 9 and 10 a.m., according to Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst.
Horst said he expects Lancaster County may get as much sleet as snow, "perhaps an inch of each," according to a tweet.
Lancaster County public schools haven't announced modified schedules. Check out LancasterOnline's list of closings and delays.
A winter weather advisory is in effect from the National Weather Service from 8 a.m. Thursday to 8 a.m. Friday. The advisory says a 2 to 4 hour period of moderate to heavy snow and sleet is likely during the morning followed by mixed precipitation in the afternoon.
Wednesday: The first winter storm of the 2018-19 season will begin dropping snow on Lancaster County Thursday morning, Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst said.
Moving northward across the Maryland border, it will probably reach the central part of the county between 9 and 10 a.m., he said.
“The early morning rush hour should be dry,” he said.
As it continues, the precipitation is expected to change from snow to sleet, then to freezing rain in the afternoon.
Steady precipitation is likely from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, creating the potential for slippery conditions. Motorists on untreated secondary roads should be especially wary, Horst said.
Trees, power lines and bridges could end up glazed with ice.
A lot depends on how long the sleet lasts. It could persist for several hours, and if it does, “that would make for the worst travel,” he said.
The expected accumulation in Lancaster County is 1/2 inch to 2 inches. Areas in the Allegheny Mountains and in northern Pennsylvania can expect accumulations of 5 to 8 inches, possibly even more in spots, Horst said.
Locally, temperatures will remain in the 20s until evening, when they will inch up to the low 30s, right around freezing. Around the same time, the rain will taper off to a drizzle, continuing overnight.
There’s a chance it could then revert to snow again around dawn Friday, potentially complicating that morning’s rush hour, Horst said.
The storm is bringing challenging conditions to much of the eastern U.S., according to Accuweather.
“Power outages and difficult travel are likely from much of northern Maryland to Maine,” Accuweather said.
A winter weather advisory covering Lancaster, York and Adams counties is in effect from 8 a.m. Thursday through 8 a.m. Friday.
Fortunately, Horst said, Friday will turn partly sunny and breezy. With highs in the mid-40s, the day should be warm enough to melt whatever the storm has left behind.