State's getting snow, but nobody knows how much Weather Service cautious, TV daring

February 25, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Bread, milk, toilet tissue . . . lunch meat in case the power goes out . . . salt for the front steps and driveway . . . Darn, the hardware store's run out of shovels.

You didn't have to be a mind reader yesterday to fathom the thoughts of many Marylanders as weather forecasters flat-out used the "S" word.

No matter of a degree or two of temperature this time, they said: Thermometers will be reading well below freezing tonight, when snow is expected to begin falling in the Baltimore area.

From Oakland to Ocean City and St. Mary's City to Rising Sun, the word also was snow.

How much snow?

That's the tricky part.

National Weather Service forecasters were reluctant to predict amounts. The low-pressure system bringing snow to Maryland was "too far out to the west," explained Fred Davis, chief meteorologist at the Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington International Airport office.

"We operate on the theory that it's better to wait until you have better indications before you assign amounts . . . rather than falsely alarm people," Mr. Davis said.

Still, he said, the storm could result in a "significant accumulation" -- which the Weather Service defines as "4 inches or more of heavy snow in this area."

But it was possible to get bold predictions in inches -- from the competitive world of TV weathermen.

* On the 6 o'clock news, WMAR-TV's (Channel 2) Norm Lewis put his shovel on the line with a prediction of "at least 8 inches," and held that estimate at 11 p.m.

* On WJZ (Channel 13), Bob Turk said at 6 p.m. that six inches seemed "a pretty good number," but downgraded the storm's severity at 11 p.m. with a prediction of two to four inches.

* On WBAL (Channel 11), Tom Tasselmyer turned a vague "several" at 6 p.m. into three to six inches by 11 p.m., adding that it was "a close call" on a big storm.

* For WBFF (Channel 45), which has no evening show, weatherman Len Johnson predicted on the 10 p.m. newscast two possibilities -- 2 to 5 inches, or up to a foot depending on the track of the storm.

And my reaction?

Galoshes . . . mittens . . . sled . . . skis . . .

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