A rapidly-moving cold front pushed snow across Maryland last night -- including the first big frosting of the season east of the mountains.
From Snow Hill on the Lower Eastern Shore to Maryland Line on the Pennsylvania border, the white stuff was accumulating on highways and hillsides from an unexpectedly heavy brush stroke of winter.
Cautious predictions of 1 to 3 inches early in the day at the National Weather Service's office at Baltimore-Washington International Airport were swept aside last night as the storm system steered further south than expected.
"It's becoming significant," said Weather Service meteorologist Bob Melrose, whose revised forecast called for at least 3 to 5 inches, with the heaviest amounts south and east of Baltimore.
It was the first measurable snow for the region since Jan. 11 last year.
More predictable was the chaos on many roads as cars skidded off highways or into other cars.
But Melvina Walters, 42, of Glen Burnie, was reluctant to let the snow take all of the blame for her mishap on Russell Street south of downtown Baltimore. She pointed to the uneven road surface, caused by highway construction, after her car spun around twice and jumped the median into the northbound lanes.
"I knew I was dead -- all these cars coming at me," she said, standing near her immobilized 1987 Volkswagen Golf -- and no police officer in sight after a half-hour.
Because of worsening conditions on Baltimore's streets at 9:40 p.m., police ordered officers in patrol cars to remain stationary except when answering emergency calls.
Mr. Melrose said the heaviest snow was in a roughly circular area stretching east from Montgomery County to Kent County and south from Baltimore to Quantico, Va. And there was another area of snow "stretching into eastern Ohio that is going to keep on coming," he said.
The heaviest area snowfall reported by 10 p.m. was 5 inches in Waldorf, in Charles County. "It's the leader of the pack," Mr. Melrose said.