As much as 6 inches of snow could fall on the Baltimore metropolitan area by late tonight as two approaching weather systems combine for what could be this winter's final farewell.
The snow was expected to start falling today between 10 a.m. and noon and continue through the night into tomorrow morning, according to Bob Melrose, a National Weather Service forecaster.
L Mixed precipitation was expected south and east of the city.
The forecast will press city school officials into dealing with their newly announced plan to delay school openings in the event of inclement weather.
Two fronts moving from the west and south are responsible for forming the storm, eight days before the official start of spring.
A swirling low-pressure front that moved through the Midwest stalled for a time at the Appalachian Mountains before it picked up again and started its slow approach to the East Coast.
That storm will meet a moisture-laden system moving up from the South, triggering a storm that should dump most of its wet snow in the Western Maryland mountains and the central portion of the state.
Melrose said the National Weather Service predicted that about 2 inches will accumulate in the Baltimore region by 6 p.m. The storm will continue through the night and into tomorrow morning and about 6 inches of snow will fall.
Today's temperatures will be in the mid-30s and will drop only a few degrees overnight because of the cloud cover, Melrose said.
The expected storm will give Baltimore school officials the option of delaying the opening of school until 10 a.m. in case of bad weather, a new policy announced yesterday.
The new plan is an attempt to boost attendance on snow days by giving students and staff members more time to get to school, said Douglas J. Neilson, spokesman for the school department.
Previously, officials could either close school for the entire day or leave it open, despite poor attendance on days when the weather is especially bad.
Under the new policy, school officials will decide by 6 a.m. whether to open, close or order a delayed opening of schools, and will notify television, radio and newspapers.
A delayed opening means that all schools will open at 10 a.m., rather than their normal opening time, which ranges from 8:10 a.m. to 9 a.m., depending on the school.
In addition, the school breakfast program, morning pre-kindergarten and morning kindergarten classes will be canceled on days when there is a delayed opening. But school lunch and afternoon pre-kindergarten and kindergarten will not be affected by the delayed opening.