Snow expected to blanket state with 3 to 6 inches

2,200 workers readied to keep roads clear

January 20, 2000|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

When you went outside to get the paper this morning, one of three winter scenarios was waiting for you.

The biggest snowfall since February 1996, when nearly 10 inches fell.

Not enough accumulation to ice down a pitcher of tea.

Something in between.

While predictions are not promises, National Weather Service meteorologists are calling for the third possibility. According to warnings from forecasters in Sterling, Va., a winter storm that began moving toward the mid-Atlantic region from Missouri yesterday was expected to blanket Maryland with 3 to 6 inches of snow today.

By 11: 45 last night, snow had begun to fall in Cumberland, according to state police. After moving into Western Maryland, the storm was expected to move across the state throughout the day before heading to sea by late afternoon. The weather service said snow will be heavy before dawn, with significant accumulation expected by noon.

In preparing to clear roadways for this morning's rush hour, the State Highway Administration put about 2,200 workers on standby.

"It's pretty straightforward. It will snow from southeast Maryland to Garrett County all of Thursday morning and end sometime in the afternoon," said Dewey Walston, a weather service forecaster. "We're not sure when it will end, but probably by about 4 p.m."

At dawn today, the temperature will be 25 degrees, with no wind, Walston said, with a high of 30 degrees in mid-afternoon.

Yesterday's high at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was 38 degrees, at 3 p.m., with a low of 14 recorded at BWI at 5 a.m.

About an inch of snow that fell in the Washington suburbs on Tuesday afternoon kept some school buses in Prince George's County from getting children home until after midnight. The cold and icy roads led to school closings and delays yesterday in Montgomery, Prince George's, Allegany, Calvert, Charles, Garrett, Somerset, St. Mary's, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties.

No school closings for today had been reported last night.

Although clearing is expected throughout the state by this evening, snow showers or flurries may linger in the mountains. Blustery weather combined with extremely cold temperatures will continue into tomorrow.

David E. Buck, a state highway spokesman, said a "full complement" of road crews, including mechanics, were told to report to work stations across the state by midnight last night.

"They're calling for 3 to 5 inches, but that could turn into 5 to 10, so you have to be prepared," Buck said. "It's not effective to salt before it snows, it just blows off the road. So we treat the salt with liquid magnesium chloride to make it effective to 15 degrees below zero, and start spraying bridges and ramps with it."

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