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Pa. Responders Slammed with Aftermath of Freezing Rain

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Tuesday's icy conditions created dangerous walking and driving conditions, surprising many people, except perhaps the emergency responders.

"I would say our call volume between 10 (a.m.) and 11 (a.m.) at least tripled, if not more," said Ed Casaldi, the acting deputy director of the county 911. "And it was all ambulance calls for falls and that kind of deal."

But his department was prepared, he said, because it happens every year. And, every year the department receives weather-report warnings in advance and prepares for it. "If we see bad weather coming, we get notified ... we staff for that," he said.

The National Weather Service in Binghamton, N.Y., issued a weather advisory early Tuesday morning after conditions became ripe for a sheet of ice to blanket the region.

"At sunset (on Monday), it was clear, so temperatures fell quickly," Weather Service meteorologist Theodore Champney said. "It started coming back up after it clouded early this morning, 1 a.m. ... It was too late; (there) wasn't any sunshine or anything to warm it (the ground) up enough."

An eastbound line of rain came into the region early Tuesday morning, but it froze on contact with the ground, he said.

"We weren't expecting as much as happened. We expected to dry up a bit with the dry, cold air we had, and that didn't happen," he said. "It looks like it started ... around 7 o'clock, and didn't quit to almost noon. It doesn't take much freezing rain to make things bad."

He said about .05 inches of rain fell, "enough to make it slick on untreated roads."

The slippery conditions coincided with patient influxes at local hospitals.

"Yes, we've definitely experienced a significant increase in patients and ambulance visits in the past four hours," Tom Gibbon, spokesman for Wyoming Valley Health Care System, said around noon. "Most of the visits are from falls due to slippery surfaces."

Others were from vehicle crashes, he said. During that time Wilkes-Barre General Hospital was treating about 30 people in the emergency department, he said, and received 27 ambulance visits during that four-hour period. By comparison, the hospital averaged about 32 ambulance visits daily in the past week.

Amy Lingobardo, of the Geisinger Health System, said Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre and Geisinger Wyoming Valley hospitals received about twice their usual volume. "By the sheer numbers we had today, there were a lot of people caught off guard by the ice," she said.

For now, the icy weather is gone, Champney said, but frosty and windy weather is taking its place as a cold front moves through this morning. "There could be some flurries (today) after the front goes through, but it doesn't look like it's going to accumulate anything," he said.

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