MD. braces for new winter storm Good news: Forecast is for less accumulation and warmer weather

January 12, 1996|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Liz Atwood, Michael Dresser and Bob Hilson contributed to this article.

The storm-weary Baltimore region was due for a heavy, wet winter mess today, but just how much snow piles up outside your door by this afternoon will depend on where you are.

National Weather Service forecasters last night were scaling back earlier predictions of 8 to 16 inches of snow, as warmer air from the Atlantic became a bigger factor in the storm.

Only 1 to 2 inches was expected to be on the ground by dawn today, with snowfall heavy at times during the morning. By afternoon, the precipitation was to taper off, the weather service said, leaving 6 to 8 inches in the western suburbs and up to a foot in Carroll County.

In the southern and eastern suburbs, 4 to 7 inches of snow was likely before changing to sleet and freezing rain this afternoon.

As the coastal low pressure center moves off to the northeast this weekend, temperatures are predicted to climb to highs near 40 degrees, bringing considerable melting to the region.

Baltimoreans only recently freed from snowbound homes were preparing yesterday for the new storm with the traditional hoarding. Store owners said customers were cleaning out shelves only partly restocked from the runs that accompanied the last storm.

Whatever happens where you are, today's forecasts raised the danger of slippery driving and walking, and possible structural damage from heavy, wet precipitation added to the heaps already on roofs, awnings and overhangs.

"We've already had several roofs collapse under the weight of the snow," said David McMillion, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. A nursing home in Clinton was damaged this week, and more than 225 cows were killed when roofs of a barn and shed gave way in Frederick County.

MEMA officials urged property owners yesterday to clear large amounts of snow from vulnerable structures, but only if they can manage it safely.

"Don't climb on roofs unless you know what you're doing," said MEMA spokeswoman Lisa Albin.

Flat roofs and those with very shallow pitches are particularly vulnerable.

Managers of the Super K-Mart Center in Hanover, Pa., finally reopened yesterday after workers spent three days with snow blowers clearing deep snow that bowed the store's 200,000-square-foot roof.

"We had drifts up to 10 feet on that roof," said Rick Fitzgerald, national maintenance chief for Super K-Mart Centers. The sagging roof sprang back as the snow was removed, he said. There was no serious damage.

With warmer temperatures expected, Maryland authorities asked residents not to shovel or plow snow onto storm drains and to help clear storm drains that may already be blocked. Fire officials asked residents to clear snow from fire hydrants in their neighborhoods.

MEMA officials said they were prepared to deal with whatever comes today. The agency matches requests from state agencies and local jurisdictions with available resources.

"I'm guardedly optimistic," said Mike Sharon, MEMA's assistant director for operations. "Everything is in place."

But difficulties remained from Sunday's storm.

"The problem we're having is to find a place to put the snow," Mr. McMillion said.

The Department of Environment has given the state and city permission to dump snow into the Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay.

"It's fairly clean snow," said Robert Summers of the Department of Environment. "It shouldn't present any problems."

The real problem was how to scoop it up. The State Highway Administration has 114 loaders but has asked the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard for another 50 to help with snow removal.

Chuck Brown, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said about 2,000 workers -- half of them private contractors -- were to man 1,500 pieces of snow removal equipment for this storm. He said road salt is plentiful.

"It [the Jan. 7 blizzard] was a storm where we didn't have to use a lot of salt; it was powdery and dry," Mr. Brown said. "This one will be a typical Baltimore storm with ice and sleet."

Vanessa Pyatt, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Public Works, said two teams of workers will rotate 12-hour shifts. She said the city also had a good supply of road salt.

The costs of this week's storms continued to mount.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said that through Wednesday, snow removal efforts had cost the state $15.2 million. Local governments had spent another $32 million. He expected those figures to go up because many areas still are digging out from last weekend's storm and because of the snow due today.

The governor said he is extending the state of emergency at least through Sunday evening.

President Bill Clinton yesterday announced that he would provide federal disaster assistance to states hit hard by this week's blizzard, beginning with Maryland and the District of Columbia.

He said he would consider requests from other states, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Delaware.

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