Snow is expected to add to area's winter headaches

Forecast calls for another storm as early as tonight

January 22, 2000|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Gusting winds and plummeting temperatures made for another brutally cold day in the Baltimore area yesterday as Maryland faced another storm that could bring more snow by tonight.

National Weather Service forecasters said they do not expect the predicted snow to approach the half-foot or so that fell Thursday, closing schools and creating commuting headaches.

Michelle K. Margraf, a weather service meteorologist stationed in Sterling, Va., said snow is expected to begin shortly after nightfall today and continue tomorrow.

Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-20s today and the low-30s tomorrow.

"It will be more than a dusting, but it doesn't look like it's going to be quite as much as with the last storm," Margraf said.

Margraf said the brunt of the storm is likely to hit south of Maryland in southern Virginia and the Carolinas.

Maryland won't get too much of it, she said, which was welcome news to State Highway Administration workers looking for a break after two days of clearing snow from Thursday.

"We'll be happy if it doesn't come, but we're prepared if it does," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, an SHA spokeswoman.

Edgar said highway crews were mostly dealing with icy patches and drifting snow yesterday -- particularly on the Eastern Shore -- although virtually all major state roads had been cleared.

State police reported that U.S. 50 in Talbot County, just west of Easton, was "a sheet of ice" last night, with numerous cars in ditches.

"It's really bad up there," a trooper with the state police Easton barracks said. "The state highway department is out doing what it can, but the people are going to have to slow down."

In Howard County, drifting snow shut down a small stretch of Route 31 between New Windsor Road and Route 407 for about five minutes during the afternoon.

Margraf said winds gusted up to 35 mph yesterday, making temperatures in the single digits and teens feel well below zero.

"It was pretty nasty," she said, noting a temperature of 19 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 5 p.m. Gusts of 24 mph made it feel like 12 below zero, Margraf said.

The cold snap has kept furnaces humming and gas meters running.

Jessica B. Atwood, spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said BGE's natural gas customers set a new record for consumption Monday, using 4 percent more than the old record set Jan. 18, 1997.

The utility keeps track of usage by units of dekatherms, one of which is enough to heat two typical houses for one day. The old record for usage was 765,000 dekatherms, Atwood said. Monday, BGE customers used 795,700 dekatherms, she said.

J. Brian Ehrardt, a Harford County dairy farmer, said he had to deal with a frozen water line to one of his barns and had to plow away the snow so that a milk truck could get through a farm lane to his barn.

"You just put a lot of clothes on and stay busy. That's the main thing," Ehrardt said.

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