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Stella! Winter’s final roar?
Late snow storm, biggest of season, shuts down area
They say March weather comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
But what about in between?
This year, locals experienced mid-March weather known as “Storm Stella.”
Many in the region were skeptical of forecasters’ predictions of a Stella “snowmageddon” that would blanket the area with a repeat of the March 13, 1993 storm.
While Stella may have disappointed kids looking for a week off from school — similar to the 1993 storm — Ephrata managed an unofficial 10-inch “blizzard” which belied some meteorologists predictions by about half.
However, to put it in historical perspective, Stella is the fifth-biggest March storm since 1926, when Millersville University began tracking weather.
And for those of us not around for the blizzard of 1993, Stella may be remembered for a lifetime or at least some time to come.
That would be true of Ephrata Post Office workers who got an unexpected snow day. The U.S. Postal service announced Tuesday morning that all regional post offices, station and branches are closed, and there would be no business or residential deliveries.
The storm managed to shut down most of the county as 40 mph winds and a sustained period of sleet, which helped cut down on snow accumulation, created heavy lifting and clogged snow-blowers for those digging out.
Ephrata appeared as a ghost town for most of Tuesday morning. Few stores, restaurants or other businesses were open.
Ben Rathod, owner of Friendly Mini Mart on Main Street, was open at 7:30 a.m. as the storm still raged.
“No customers yet,” he said. “But a lot of people rely on us so they will be here once they get dug out.”
Other stores open were Wal-Mart, Giant, and Weis, though it was delayed until enough employees showed up to serve customers, a pair of clerks said.
All schools were closed and most had a two-hour delay Wednesday morning as plow trucks continued to play catch-up on snow that began at about 8 p.m. Monday and continued off and on until Tuesday afternoon.
The day off forced Ephrata Area School District to schedule a make-up day on April 13. Cocalico will make up the day on April 17.
Ephrata officials said there were few if any issues related to the Nor’easter. Supermarket employees said business was brisk over the weekend as residents appeared to prepare early for the storm.
Joy Ashley, spokeswoman for Ephrata Public Library, said patrons had packed the building on Monday.
“DVD checkouts were flying off the shelf,” she said.
Ephrata Police Chief William Harvey said things went smoothly because of good planning. He noted that people had plenty of warning about the storm including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s urging Monday that people “don’t go to work” on Tuesday.
“People stayed off the road as they were asked to, we had virtually no calls for service,” Harvey said.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Tuesday alerted Pennsylvania consumers and businesses about price gouging protections after the storm, in a press release.
“As the snow subsides, we want Pennsylvanians to be aware of price-gouging and the laws in place to protect them from unfair price increases during emergencies,” Shapiro noted “If you think a vendor is price gouging, report it to our office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.”
Governor Wolf’s declaration of a disaster emergency yesterday triggered protections under state law for consumers and businesses from price gouging. Under state law governing a disaster emergency, companies and vendors are prohibited from charging a price for consumer goods or services that exceeds 20 percent of the average price those goods or services were sold for in the seven days preceding the date of the declaration.
The AG’s office encouraged consumers with questions or concerns about price gouging to call its Bureau of Consumer Protection hotline at 800-441-2555 or go to www.attorneygeneral.com to file a complaint.
“Whether it’s a snowplow operator charging you too much to clear your driveway, or a store over-charging you too much for a snow blower, if you think you’ve been price-gouged, our agents are here to protect you and enforce the law,” Shapiro noted.
The price-gouging law gives the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection authority to investigate complaints and allows for penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, along with restitution.
Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 721-4455.