Icy threat fizzles into rain, causing few disruptions Storm was 'a tough call' for road, school officials

January 16, 1998|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Maryland officials took precautions yesterday to battle an ice storm that never occurred, closing schools, declaring snow emergencies and dispatching hundreds of highway crews to salt area roads.

But the storm that arrived in Baltimore shortly after 5 a.m. soon fizzled, turning from snow and sleet to a cold rain that caused little damage beyond a handful of fender-bender accidents.

"Everybody must have stayed in this morning," said state police Sgt. Jim Hare of the McHenry barracks in Garrett County in Western Maryland, where a snow emergency declared at 7 a.m. was lifted by 11 a.m.

Hare said the storm left sheets of ice on many roads but caused only one accident by late yesterday: a fender bender just after 7 a.m. along Route 53 near Friendsville.

Snow emergencies also were declared in Allegany and Washington counties, also in Western Maryland, but were lifted by 12: 30 p.m. yesterday, said Cpl. Adrian Yancey, a state police spokesman at Pikesville. No storm-related highway fatalities were reported, Yancey said.

Schools were closed in Anne Arundel, Howard and Carroll counties but remained open in Baltimore and Harford counties and in the city.

"It was a really tough call. We believed it was going to hit and was going to be serious," said William Hyde, Carroll County's assistant superintendent for administration. "But it didn't happen."

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials reported no storm-related power outages.

The State Highway Administration dispatched 950 workers early yesterday to spread salt on bridges, ramps and overpasses because the storm threatened to hit when rush-hour traffic reached its peak.

"The forecast called for a mix of snow, freezing rain and rain, so we had to be prepared for whatever came," said Valerie Burnett Edgar, an SHA spokeswoman.

Crews began work at 3 a.m., she said.

Andrew Woodcock, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the storm that seemed so threatening at midweek formed in the Gulf of Mexico and was expected to bring snow and sleet into the area because of the moisture it contained.

But he said that temperatures warmed sufficiently to turn the precipitation at Baltimore-Washington International Airport into rain by 9: 20 a.m.

A total of .21 inches of snow and rain fell, he said.

"It was the whole kit and caboodle in terms of precipitation," Woodcock said. "It started out as snow, then became sleet, then became a mixture of freezing rain and rain, and then it became all rain."

Today's forecast called for cloudy skies with occasional light rain or drizzle and highs in the 40s.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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