By News-Item Staff

Jack-knifed tractor-trailers were blocking highways and vehicles were sliding into poles and trees Tuesday morning, when snow caused more than a dozen accidents in eastern Northumberland County.

A mountainous section of Route 54 was closed for more than an hour because of treacherous conditions while police tried to reach accident scenes.

A small accumulation of snow and rain was forecast to start mid-morning, but the intensity of what was mostly snow for much of the morning took motorists by surprise. One to 2 inches accumulated quickly.

From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., what had been mostly rain showing on the AccuWeather radar available at newsitem.com switched to almost all snow across central Pennsylvania, from the southern to northern borders of the state.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Craig Evanego said the wintery mix dropped less than 2 inches in most of Northumberland County. Most places in the state experienced between 1 and 3 inches of snow and sleet, he said, while Sullivan County recorded about 5 inches of snow.

The higher elevation of Route 54 in the Natalie and Bear Gap areas made the snowfall more troublesome there. By 11 a.m., reports of vehicles being stranded along the highway were mounting. A police officer said he had just traveled across the mountain from Elysburg to Strong and said the highway was in poor condition. He informed county communications he hadn't see any PennDOT trucks.

About a two-mile section of the highway would eventually be shut down, from Route 61 in Strong to Park Avenue near Marion Heights, in part due to a tractor-trailer stuck in the snow.

Pregnant woman hurt

A tractor-trailer crash on Route 61 between Kulpmont and Wal-Mart was one of three snow-related accidents in Coal Township. There were no serious injuries, although a pregnant woman was hospitalized after suffering abdominal pain.

The first occurred at 10:40 a.m., when the snow was quickly accumulating on roads. Patrolman Chris Lapotsky said Adrienne Purcell, 24, of 1240 W. Spruce St., Coal Township, was driving a Jeep Wrangler down a steep part of West Spruce Street when she lost control of her vehicle. It struck an unattended parked truck owned by Dominic Higgins Jr., 66, of 1144 W. Spruce St., before hitting a parked car operated by Jacqueline Hoffa, 57, of 1725 Motters Lane, Williamsport, and a PPL pole with its front end.

Purcell, who is pregnant, suffered abdominal pain and was transported by AREA Services Ambulance to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where she was listed in fair condition late Tuesday afternoon.

The second accident involved a jackknifed rig, and occurred at 11:56 a.m. just north of the Kulpmont line.

Lapotsky said Charles Johnstone, 56, of 706 Main Ave., Hickory, N.C., was driving toward Shamokin when a pickup truck operated by Mary Nowroski, 60, of 137 E. Saylor St., Atlas, who was in front of Johnstone's tractor-trailer, lost control of her vehicle on the snow and ice. Police said Johnstone swerved his rig to avoid striking Nowroski's truck and lost control of his rig, causing it to jackknife across all four lanes and strike guide rail.

The tractor-trailer had front-end damage, but after it was pulled away from the guide rail by a tow truck from Dave's Auto Body, Johnstone was able to drive away. Nowroski's truck was not damaged.

The third crash occurred at noon on Route 901 near Excelsior.

According to Lapotsky, Jessica R. Kuhns, 32, of 215 E. Buick St., Mount Carmel, was driving a 2005 Ford Escape west on the snow-covered highway when she lost control, causing her vehicle to slide into a culvert and dirt bank. Kuhns suffered a minor head injury, but did not require medical attention. Her Escape was towed by Dave's Auto Body.

10 other crashes

Approximately 10 other weather-related accidents were reported in the area Tuesday, according to Northumberland County Communications Center.

After Route 54 was reopened Tuesday afternoon, two accidents were reported on the Natalie Mountain.

One of the incidents involved a van driven by Jeffrey Thomashefski, of Mount Carmel, who was traveling south toward Natalie and lost control of his vehicle near the Roaring Creek Watershed entrance. The van crossed the opposite lanes, went though an accumulation of wet snow on the eastern berm and crashed over the embankment, narrowly missing several large trees. Thomashefski escaped serious injury, according to reports at the scene.

Meanwhile, the timing of the storm did not force local schools to cancel or close early.

Dusting, and more?

There is a 40 percent chance of snow showers today, Evanego said, with only a "dusting" expected.

There's a possibility of more precipitation Friday evening, but it's too early to tell if it will be snow or rain, he said.