Surprise snow snarls area traffic

December 26, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer Staff writers David Michael Ettlin and Norris West contributed to this story.

An unexpected snow shower proved a most unwelcome Christmas gift across Maryland last night, causing a rash of car accidents as the sun went down and temperatures fell.

"A cold front is pushing this through and kicking off snow showers," said Robert L. Melrose of the National Weather Service. "They really weren't supposed to happen, but they are."

Accumulations of 1 to 2 inches were possible overnight, although today's forecast calls for only flurries in the late afternoon and evening. Temperatures are not expected to get out of the mid-20s, but gusting winds may make it feel as cold as 15 degrees below zero.

People were urged to watch weather conditions this morning and to stay home if possible.

Last night, as snow fell on top of a thin layer of ice coating roadways and overpasses, the State Highways Department estimated it had 130 pieces of equipment and 150 workers salting and sanding roads throughout Maryland.

Seven counties -- Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Allegany -- put snow emergency plans into effect. Garrett County had been in a snow emergency for several days.

Christmas Day's relatively light traffic helped to keep problems to a minimum, but there was still a steady stream of fender benders and some accidents involving injuries.

Baltimore County police reported a 20-car pile-up on Route 43 near Belair Road and had to close Interstate 83 from Mount Carmel Road to the Pennsylvania line because of ice and accidents. The White Marsh Boulevard entrance to the Beltway also was closed.

"We're having more accidents than we can get to right now; we're calling people in," said Trooper Don Teesdale, at the state police barracks in Bel Air.

"About 5 p.m., we got the icing conditions, then it started snowing on top of it, and people can't see it."

In Baltimore, police officials ordered all patrol cars to park unless on a call. State police described roads in Carroll and Frederick counties as sheer ice. "We've got people in ditches everywhere," a dispatcher in Westminster said.

A snow emergency plan went into effect in Howard County at 9:30 p.m.

Fire dispatcher Donald Jordan said roads and highways in the county were "extremely hazardous," and ambulances were ordered to take patients to the nearest hospitals in all cases.

He said there had been a number of minor auto accidents and disabled vehicles.

Jim Lewis, shift supervisor at Maryland AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the number of calls for disabled vehicles increased soon after the snow began to fall. He said the volume was manageable, but might become heavier during the night.

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