There are some 'ifs,' but snowstorm headed this way could be big one

March 12, 1993|By Richard Irwin and David Michael Ettlin | Richard Irwin and David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writers

If the Texas storm headed this way hangs off the Atlantic Coast for an appreciable time, snow accumulation will be significant -- perhaps as much as in February 1979, when more than 20 inches fell, the National Weather Service said today.

"We'll get a goodly amount of snow if the storm remains off shore," forecaster Amet Figueroa said. He said he expects 3 inches of snow in the city by 7 a.m. tomorrow.

The storm, whose center was still in Texas early today, could bring to Central Maryland its heaviest snow in a decade as it moves up the East Coast, with the first flakes arriving close to this evening's evening rush hour.

Dick Diener, another National Weather Service forecaster, was a bit more daring than Mr. Figueroa.

"The March blizzard of '93 is about to sweep across Baltimore," Mr. Diener said. "A year from now when they talk about it, it's going to be the Blizzard of '93."

Mr. Diener said extremely high winds will be the worst part of the storm, regardless of how much snow we get.

Wind speeds of at least 25 to 35 mph are expected and will result in heavy drifting and poor visibility.

"It is going to be a whiteout," Mr. Diener said. "This is not a winter storm that is going to be laughed at when it hits. . . . It is a textbook example of a major winter storm moving up the East Coast."

Statewide, the heaviest accumulations are expected west of Interstate 95, with snow amounts south and east of Baltimore diminished by a temporary changeover to rain about midafternoon tomorrow -- maybe.

Mr. Figueroa said that if the storm stays more or less inland, we'll still get a lot of snow, but it will change to rain that much sooner," he said.

"My ballpark figure for Baltimore City and surrounding areas," he said, "is 6 inches, but it could be more."

On the Eastern Shore -- particularly the Lower Shore -- mostly heavy rain is expected, but the big problem there and along Chesapeake Bay's western shoreline may be the strong northeasterly winds raising the danger of severe coastal flooding, forecasters said.

The snow probably will end as flurries Sunday.

Even the customarily cautious Fred Davis, the area's chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service, was talking "blizzard" yesterday -- a phenomenon that hasn't happened in the Baltimore area since Feb. 11, 1983, when the area was paralyzed by a near-record 22 inches of snow.

A blizzard is defined as 35-mph winds with blowing snow reducing visibility to 500 feet or less.

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