Earth Day has snowy prelude

SPRING COLORS FADE TO WHITE

April 23, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin and Bill Talbott | David Michael Ettlin and Bill Talbott,Staff Writers

To the colors of spring -- daffodil yellow, hyacinth blue, peach-blossom pink and a rainbow of tulip tints -- add a touch of winter white.

Fully a month into spring, snow fell yesterday across a wide expanse of Western and Central Maryland -- not a lot in most places, but enough to raise eyebrows and send an Earth Day chill into spirits warmed just two days earlier by the year's first 80-degree weather.

"You don't expect snow a week before May, but it does happen,said Amet Figueroa, a National Weather Service forecaster.

"It's almost like the [Howard County] earthquake -- it's something novel."

Weather Service observers reported as much as 3 1/2 inches of snow in mountainous Garrett County; 2 inches in Frostburg (Allegany County's refrigerator), 2.3 inches in the northwestern Montgomery County community of Damascus, and mostly lesser amounts in colder reaches of Carroll, Howard and Baltimore counties.

Those were the official accounts.

Then you talk to John Fleming, the owner of a store in the Mount Airy-Ridgeville area of Carroll County:

"The snow was 3 to 4 inches deep, even on the roads, but it started melting about noon."

Aside from a few school kindergarten cancellations and scattered minor accidents, the snow mostly caused its startled observers to ask, "What's happening?"

Mr. Figueroa's answer: The rare, but not-unheard-of phenomenon of a mid-spring snow -- in this case, triggered by a deep-south dive of the jet stream and a collision of its trailing cold air with warm, moist air over the Chesapeake region.

In Garrett, where snow has been known to fall on Memorial Day, yesterday's weather was not so remarkable. The county has seen close to 150 inches of snow since its winter season began -- around October.

But in Carroll, the snow was quite a sight -- beginning about 7:30 a.m. and decorating the flowers, trees, fields and cars with 2 inches or more of the white stuff before it began to taper off about noon.

According to Weather Service records, the Baltimore area has seen snow as late as May 9 -- when a trace was recorded at the downtown Custom House in 1923.

The latest snow at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was a trace on May 1, 1963.

The latest measureable snow in the city was one-tenth of an inch on April 28, 1898.

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