Put that emergency trip to the store on hold: Predicted snow likely to steer clear

March 01, 1994|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Gregory P. Kane contributed to this article.

After sounding the alarms, weather forecasters are saying that the snowstorm they predicted for midweek appears to be steering clear of winter-weary Marylanders.

"It's looking less and less like a big threat," said Ken Shaver, a National Weather Service forecaster at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "It looks like it might slide out to the south of us."

Weather Service computers, which use models based on what similar storms have done in the past, were in agreement over the weekend about an impending storm, he said. "It looked pretty much like a sure-fire thing."

The last time the computers agreed on a snowstorm like that was in the days leading up to last year's March 13 blizzard, which paralyzed much of the East Coast and piled almost 12 inches of snow on BWI.

"People thought this might be another case like that," Mr. Shaver said. But then the computer models "started going in all different directions, which makes a good case for not looking too far in the future when it comes to snowstorms."

In the Baltimore area, the forecast now calls for snow flurries or rain developing tomorrow and continuing into the evening. Snow is more likely to the south of Maryland, and in the western part of the state, ending Thursday. Rain beginning tomorrow in the east should clear Thursday.

While this week's storm may spare us, Mr. Shaver said, "We're not out of the woods yet."

The 30-day forecast calls for a 55-percent chance of colder and wetter weather than normal for March.

On average, March is snowier than December, with 3.6 inches of snow falling in a "normal" year.

Older residents may remember the Palm Sunday storm in 1942 that unloaded 22 inches of wet snow on Baltimore. That storm came March 28-29.

This winter, only 13.1 inches of snow have fallen at BWI -- far short of the 21.5-inch average for the season.

Yet many Marylanders still see plenty of ice to remind them of the snow, ice, freezing rain, slippery sidewalks and treacherous roads that demolished highway budgets and school calendars in January and February.

Most of what fell at BWI during the month just ended came during a remarkable 4-inch sleet storm on Feb. 10 and 11.

"Nobody around here can remember getting that much sleet at one time," said Mr. Shaver.

The sleet storm followed two days of sleet and freezing rain on the 8th and 9th, which restored the icy glaze that first appeared in January and had not yet completely melted.

On top of all that came several inches of snow and 1.5 inches of rain on Feb. 23 and 24, which added slushy pedestrian misery and minor flooding to the mix.

In all, February saw 5.3 inches of frozen precipitation, which melted down into 4.07 inches of water. That was about an inch above normal for the month.

Temperatures ranged from a balmy 66 degrees on Sunday, Feb. 20, to lows of 14 degrees on Sunday and Monday mornings this week. The coldest day was Feb. 10, with a low of 15 degrees and a high of just 22 at the airport.

There were 25 days with freezing temperatures in February, and the mercury stuck at 32 or below on six days. No records there; there were 28 days with freezing temperatures in February 1993 and February 1963, Mr. Shaver said.

February's temperatures averaged 34.4 degrees at BWI, just a shade below the 34.8-degree average for the month.

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