Battered by one of the toughest winters in memory, Maryland limped into spring early today in the midst of an intense low pressure storm system that brought heavy rain, high winds and the prospect of more snow.
The vernal equinox marking the start of springtime occurred at 3:03 a.m., but today's weather will be anything but springlike. That will have to wait for the weekend.
Forecasters predicted light rain and possible snow, although significant accumulations are unlikely. Today's high temperatures are expected to reach the lower 40s.
"Right now, with the roads being so warm, if [snow] does fall on the road surfaces, it's not going to stick for long," said Jose Marrero, a National Weather Service forecaster at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
It will be windy today, with sustained winds of 15 to 25 mph, and stronger gusts expected.
If any measurable snow does fall, it will add to an already record-breaking winter. The 4.1 inches of snow at BWI on March 8 pushed the season total to 62.5 inches, which topped the 44.4 inches that fell during the winter of 1966-1967. A trace of snow, not enough to measure, fell Sunday.
The front of the storm system hit Maryland yesterday afternoon, bringing periods of intense rain, some thunder and lightning, and high winds. A gust of 48 mph was recorded at BWI, and a gust of 55 mph was measured at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s storm center in Woodlawn.
The thunderstorm and winds caused havoc, especially in the city, where there were many reports of downed branches and uprooted trees. A BGE utility pole at York Road and Seminary Avenue in Lutherville broke in half. The storm caused about 14,200 BGE customers to lose power, mostly as falling trees and limbs damaged power lines. By 11 p.m., power had been restored to all but about 3,000 customers.
"It is not unusual for this time of year," said BGE spokesman Art Slusark. "There are a lot of dead branches that haven't been cleared out yet. Also, the ground is soft, so you're more likely to see trees uprooted."
The most serious incident occurred about 4 p.m. at Howard and Lexington streets, where seven people were injured when a plywood walkway collapsed in high wind at the former Hecht's building that is being refurbished for a drug store. None of the injuries was serious.
After this winter, it may be hard to believe that springlike 'N weather will come. But balmy days, relatively speaking, are expected this weekend. After a cool and breezy Friday, with highs in the 40s, both weekend days should be sunny, with highs in the 50s.
Mr. Marrero, the meteorologist, said he could practically guarantee a good weekend: "I'm working, so it'll probably be a nice one."
Pub Date: 3/20/96