Snowy Evening Will Surpass Snowy Morning In Area, Forecasters Say

Unexpected early accumulation in region snarls traffic, closes schools …

By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

9:18 AM EST, January 26, 2011

Some Marylanders woke up to unexpected snow Wednesday morning, but the heaviest accumulations in the Baltimore area may be yet to come, according to the National Weather Service.

“The morning stuff is just a teaser,” said Nikole Listemaa, a senior forecaster in the weather service’s Sterling, Va., office. “Moderate to heavier snow will come in later this afternoon and linger into the overnight.”

Light snow should continue through the morning but is expected to mix with rain and sleet later, she said. Moderate snow will begin mid-afternoon, and the heaviest snow should fall between 4 p.m. and midnight, she said.

A Winter Storm Watch issued Tuesday called for 5 inches or more of snow in the region, amid a mix of sleet, freezing rain and rain, but the precipitation was expected to begin in the late afternoon Wednesday in Baltimore’s suburbs, changing to snow as temperatures drop into the upper 20s Wednesday night.

The storm watch was supposed to start at 7 a.m. in Maryland’s western counties, but it started earlier, at 6:30 a.m., Listemaa said. All watches were now in effect now, she added.

The city of Baltimore and Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties could receive 4 to 8 inches of snow, according to Listemaa. Southern areas such as Anne Arundel County could get more of the wintery mix, so it may only get 3 to 5 inches of snow, she said.

Temperatures Wednesday morning were in the lower 30s, and could rise to the lower to mid-30s before falling back to the 20s overnight.

A number of collisions in the Baltimore area slowed traffic at times in several locations. At least three minor crashes were reported Wednesday morning on Interstate 95 in Howard County, including one involving a tractor-trailer and another vehicle in the southbound lanes south of Route 175, according to Maryland State Police.

The State Highway Administration did not pre-treat the roads because “all the forecasts were saying this was going to start as a rain event,” said spokeswoman Kim Frum. “That would have been a huge waste of resources.”

However, crews were mobilized between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., anticipating a need to address conditions on bridges, which freeze first, she said. As a result, they were able to quickly clean up primary roads, according to Frum.

“By 4:30 a.m., most of the main lines were just wet,” she said.

SHA personnel were addressing reports of slushy accumulations across shoulders and roadways, with 1,000 crews out working to resolve problems, Frum said. But those crews were also reporting that most people were driving too fast for the road conditions, she added, urging motorists to slow down and allow plenty of braking distance.

Brandon Heyer, a Glen Burnie resident making his morning commute into Annapolis Junction, said most of the roads he encountered were not in terrible condition.

“Yet [state Route] 100 westbound was a mess at 8 a.m.,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I ended up taking the back roads in the area and they were safer [and quicker] with how people were driving on 100.”

All of the public school systems in the Baltimore metro area were closed Wednesday due to the weather, and many colleges and universities had delayed openings. Non-essential City of Baltimore employees were on a two-hour delay Wednesday morning, but essential employees must report on time.

Baltimore Sun reporter Yeganeh June Torbati contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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