Harrisburg, PA — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn warned sustained cold temperatures and a string of snowstorms have left many state forest roads impassable and she urged motorists to stay off them until conditions improve.
This applies for many of the backroads in state forests and deep within state parks. Please be mindful of road conditions before you travel. Use common sense and turn around if conditions are too bad.
“Current conditions are a snowmobiler’s delight but they can become a motorist’s nightmare when they are not prepared for ice or deep snow,” Dunn said. “In almost all of our 20 state forest districts we are seeing numerous reports of disabled and abandoned vehicles. Often, staff must mobilize to locate and retrieve occupants who wander away from inoperable cars and trucks.”
The secretary pointed to Forbes State Forest in southwestern Pennsylvania where more than two dozen vehicles recently were abandoned on several roads after bogging down in deep snow. Foresters report seeing more stranded vehicles this year than in winters spanning the past two decades.
“Many can be attributed to operators relying on GPS directions, or not being accustomed to driving in severe winter conditions,” said Dunn. “We are posting some roads as ‘impassable’ but we have more than 3,000 miles of roads in our forest system. Often threading through rugged, remote terrain, some are a challenge to navigate even under ideal conditions. These are not areas where you want to become stranded and so we urge common sense when deciding whether to venture out in these winter conditions.”
Also, the secretary noted DCNR is not responsible for vehicle towing and recovery, and cell phones often are useless in remote areas.
Dunn offered the following safety tips for winter driving on state forest roads:
- Operate only 4-wheel (or all wheel) drive vehicles with elevated ground clearance but do not overestimate the vehicle’s capabilities
- Drive slowly in winter conditions, especially on steeper descent
- Leave travel plan details with family/friends and plan for contingencies
- Keep state forest map, matches, flashlight, cell phone, food, water, tire chains and sleeping bag in vehicle during winter travel
- A stuck vehicle can quickly turn into a more serious safety/survival situation
- Avoid state forest roads when advised
- Be prepared to call towing/removal service if you become stuck and need assistance
- Call ahead to state forest district offices to learn about road conditions or closures