Heavy, wet snow coats Western Md. 32 inches in Keyser's Ridge

accumulations drop sharply to the east

November 16, 1995|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Darren Allen and Patrick Gilbert contributed to this article.

Garrett County residents were grappling yesterday with more than 2 feet of snow, high winds and drifts, unplowed secondary roads, and a five-week wait before winter really starts.

The county sank beneath at least 20 inches of heavy, wet snow that fell on top of 3 or 4 inches from Saturday's storm. As much as 32 inches was reported on the ground in Keyser's Ridge. To the east, snow accumulations skidded sharply downhill to 4 inches in Carroll County and barely an inch in Baltimore County.

Allegany County had 12 to 16 inches, while Washington County had 10 to 12 inches, the National Weather Service said. Frederick County saw 4 to 6 inches.

Carroll's 4 inches delayed schools and courts, and brought the season's total to 8 inches. "I hope it's no indication of what's to come," said local weather observer Larry Myers.

The inch of slush in northwest Baltimore County caused the Hereford school district to open classrooms two hours late yesterday. County road crews did only a little plowing and salting. The rest of the county saw rain. Pikesville recorded 1.5 inches.

The forecast called for snow showers and flurries in the mountains today and tonight, but sunny skies to the east. Snow or rain creeps back into the forecast for Sunday and Monday.

Yesterday's storm closed schools in Garrett and Washington counties. Allegany schools were closed on Tuesday and would have closed again yesterday if students hadn't already been granted a day off for parent conferences, officials there said.

"Chances are bleak" that classes will resume tomorrow in Garrett, said Superintendent Jerry Ryscavage. That's because plows were having trouble clearing the school bus turnarounds.

The State Highway Administration used 340 people and 233 pieces of equipment, most of them in the western counties, to battle the storm. Two extra-wide Oshkosh plows and one Norland highway snow blower were redeployed westward to assist.

Even so, hundreds of tractor-trailers over 10,000 pounds were ordered off I-68 west of LaVale about 9 p.m. Tuesday. They were losing traction and interfering with plowing operations. State police waved them on at noon yesterday.

"This morning we had several hundred trucks parked on the shoulder, either because we parked them there, or that was as far as they could go," said George H. Small, assistant engineer for traffic in the highway administration's LaVale office. "A few jackknifed, but we didn't have any totally wrecked."

The ferocity of the storm in Western Maryland seemed odd to lowlanders in the east who saw lots of rain and wind, but few flakes.

"They got waxed pretty good in those western counties," said National Weather Service forecaster Dick Deiner.

The culprit was a combination of snowmakers that converged on the region. A northeaster first drew cold air from Canada into a counterclockwise ballet with warm, moist ocean air from the South and East.

As the storm drew the rainy Atlantic air westward into the colder air over the western counties, the rain turned to snow. The mountains intensified the snow by lifting the Atlantic air, cooling and squeezing out more of its moisture.

At the same time, Mr. Deiner said, the Canadian air brought with it extra moisture picked up from the Great Lakes.

John Newkirk, a meteorologist at the weather service's Sterling, Va., forecast office, said eastern Maryland would have seen more snow if the low had swept further east than it did. More cold air would have slipped to the east, turning more rain to snow.

Mr. Newkirk predicted "a lot more snow this winter than we have had in the past three to four years." He blamed cooling Pacific waters and a southward shift of the jet stream, which will bring colder air closer to Maryland.

"So if we've got the cold in place, all we need is a storm system to come through, and it dumps snow more than rain," Mr. Newkirk said. "Or, we could also have ice. But it looks like this year we get more snow."

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