Maryland's third winter storm in a week dumped as much as 12 inches of snow in Western Maryland and a little more than 2 inches in the Baltimore area yesterday morning before giving way to rain and fear of flooding.
Public schools in Baltimore were open, but those in 16 other Maryland school systems, including all counties in the metropolitan suburbs, were closed because of wet snow that began before dawn and turned to rain before noon.
The rain never stopped but is expected to end today, according to the National Weather Service.
In parts of Western Maryland the snow continued into the evening. Twelve inches fell in Cumberland and 10 inches fell in Keysers Ridge in Garrett County, state police said.
A rainy forecast for today has people in Western Maryland more worried than the snow. Civil defense officials were monitoring areas susceptible to flooding because of today's forecast of rain, warmer weather and the expected melting of the 20 to 25 inches of snow that has fallen in Allegany and Garrett counties in the last two weeks.
There was nothing unusual about this week's weather: Moist, warm systems from the Pacific Coast and the Southwest moved east to combine with cold air and produce snow and freezing rain.
"It's just one of those things. We had a lot of moisture coming east, where it met cold weather," said Amet Figueroa, a forecaster for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "But after [today] we should have a drying-out period, generally fair weather."
But, with the business of snow, you just can't win if it's your job to decide whether schools should open or close.
Lester McCrea is the man who makes that call when it snows in Baltimore, where a little more than 2 inches came down between 3:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. yesterday before the precipitation turned to rain.
Three times this week -- Monday, Wednesday and yesterday -- the assistant school superintendent had to decide if bad weather was bad enough to close schools.
Three times Mr. McCrea looked at the roads, consulted with wise men and declared that school must go on.
And three times public criticism rained down on his decision.
"One set of parents have heavily criticized us for all three decisions," said Douglas J. Neilson, a spokesman for the ZTC Baltimore school system. "But if we closed the schools we'd hear from the same amount of parents -- those who depend on us for things other than education, like a place to leave their kids so they can go to work -- saying that [closing] was the wrong decision."
There's a code word that school systems use when calling radio and television stations to report school closings.
That code -- usually some silly word associated with the weather -- was broken by an unidentified woman this week who called at least one radio station saying that schools in Baltimore were closed.
The code has been changed.
School snow days
Here is a look at the number of snow days scheduled and used by school districts in the metropolitan area. Unscheduled days off must be made up before school lets out for the year. If scheduled snow days are not used, students get out of school early for the summer. A day in which school starts late or ends early does not count as a missed day.
Jurisdiction.. .. .. Days.. .. .. Days
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. planned.. .. used
Anne Arundel.. .. .. 4.. .. .. .. 1
Baltimore.. .. .. .. 0.. .. .. .. 0
Baltimore Co.. .. .. 1.. .. .. .. 3
Carroll. .. .. .. .. 3.. .. .. .. 3
Harford. .. .. .. .. 4.. .. .. .. 3
Howard.. .. .. .. .. 3.. .. .. .. 3