Mother Nature kicked off the new year with a measurable snowfall - but she's apparently just getting started.

Snow had accumulated about 2 inches in Shamokin as of 8 p.m. Thursday and it was expected local residents would be shoveling, blowing and plowing away some 4 to 6 inches by this morning.

With that, it's time to focus on the coming cold snap. Just how cold? "A nice, even zero," answered John LaCorte, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in State College.

And the mercury will

fall even lower on Monday and Tuesday nights, with early predictions of minus 5 to minus 7 for central Pennsylvania, LaCorte said Thursday afternoon.

Thursday's storm chased students who had just returned from their long holiday break out of school early, with local school districts dismissing mid-day.

With temperatures in the upper teens and low 20s, light snow was seen in Sunbury by 1:30 p.m. and it was snowing in Shamokin by 3 p.m. It was falling pretty much as LaCorte forecast, at a light to moderate pace. The worst of the storm was expected between 5 p.m. and midnight, and the snow was to taper off overnight.

The extreme cold was already moving in Thursday, as was the wind.

With a high of just 12 today and a northwest wind from 13 to 18 mph, wind chill values will be as low as -11, NWS reported.

Far northern counties of the state, which were under a winter storm warning, were expected to get up to 10 inches. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Northumberland, Columbia, Schuylkill and other counties starting at noon and continuing until 7 a.m. today.

Just after 5 p.m., PennDOT temporarily reduced the speed limit on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County and on Interstate 80 in Carbon and Monroe counties.

The measurable snowfall in combination with bitterly cold temperatures had the state Department of Health reminding motorists Thursday to carry essential items in their vehicles, such as food, water and warm clothes, in the event of travel delays.

The department urged the following commonsense steps to reduce the risk of health hazards during and after the storm:

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning during power outages:

- Never use an electric generator, camp stove or similar device indoors since they produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that builds up in closed spaces and is deadly.

- Leave your home immediately and call 911 if your carbon monoxide detector sounds. Get medical help right away if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are dizzy, light headed or nauseous.

Stay as warm as possible:

- Hypothermia is a serious condition that happens when your body temperature is too low. Older Pennsylvanians and babies are most at risk and should be checked frequently. If your power is out for a long time, stay with a relative or friend, or go to a shelter if one is open in your area.

- If you must venture outdoors, make trips brief and dress warmly. Cover your ears, head, mouth and face to prevent frostbite.

Prevent snow removal injuries

- If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms of a heart attack while shoveling snow, call 911.

- When possible, push snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, bend your legs and not your back. Also avoid twisting motions that can stress your back.

- If using a snow blower, read and follow all safety instructions.

- Never call 911 to request or report road conditions. When calling 911 to report an emergency, it is critical for callers to stay on the line, even if for an extended series of rings, until the operator answers. Hang-ups due to frustration result in key minutes being lost as 911 center personal attempt to reestablish contact.

- To check road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of state roads, visit www.511PA.com or simply call 511.

The commonwealth's ReadyPA campaign encourages citizens to take three basic steps before an emergency occurs: Be Informed, Be Prepared, Be Involved.

More detailed information, including downloadable emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates, is available online at www.ReadyPA.org or by calling 1- 888-9-READY-PA.