Second winter storm leaves slippery mess

Scores of trucks, cars jackknife or spin out

woman dies in crash

Conditions vary widely

Many flights canceled, delayed

football fans get cold feet

January 31, 2000|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

A nasty mix of wintry weather slogged through Maryland yesterday, making roads and runways treacherous, and fouling weekend travel and Super Bowl parties across the state.

Slick roads and driver error were believed to have caused a car crash that killed a 45-year-old Baltimore County woman about 7 p.m., state police said. The woman was partially ejected from a 1999 Lincoln Navigator when it skidded on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway at West Nursery Road near Linthicum, where as much as an inch of ice had formed by the early evening.

The car overturned on the woman, who was not identified. The driver and a second adult passenger were not injured, police said.

Depending on where you were and the time of day, the leaden skies produced snow, sleet, freezing rain or simply rain as a low-pressure system -- the second coastal storm in five days -- worked its way north from the Carolinas.

Temperatures today were expected to hit a high of 35 to 40 degrees, and daytime highs were expected to remain in the 40s throughout the week. No new winter storms were in the forecast.

But yesterday, scores of tractor-trailers and cars jackknifed or spun out into the medians and ditches along snow-covered interstates from the I-95 corridor to Western Maryland.

Anne Arundel County and Southern Maryland saw a significant accumulation of ice. There were no widespread power outages as some had feared, although National Weather Service forecaster Michelle Margraf said ice-related outages were possible in southern parts of the state.

With overnight salting and precipitation ending before midnight, the roads were expected to have a chance to dry before the morning rush hour.

"I can't promise a good rush hour," said Margraf. "But it will be better where it just snowed than where they had freezing rain."

In a weather-related incident yesterday linked to the cold, a 30-inch water main ruptured in College Park. Five families were forced from their homes by the rushing water. One home, pushed from its foundation by the deluge, was condemned, said Mark Brady, a Prince George's County Fire Department spokesman.

Road conditions and precipitation varied widely across the region. Major highways were largely wet or slushy in the Washington area and on the Eastern Shore. But they became snow-covered closer to Baltimore, and to the north and west of the city.

Two inches of snow had fallen at Baltimore-Washington International Airport; 3 1/2 inches in Towson; 5 inches in Hereford as the precipitation began to change to rain or freezing rain.

Hagerstown had 6 inches of snow. Martinsburg, W.Va., had 10 inches of snow by early evening.

In the Baltimore region, the storm began in the early morning with a few bursts of light snow. After a morning break, heavier snow arrived about noon. It quickly began covering the roads and the remnants of Tuesday's 15-inch snowfall.

Jim Travers, a National Weather Service meteorologist, described the precipitation as "the old wintry mix that we know and love in this area."

As football fans looked out of their windows, they began to get cold feet about driving to watch the big game with friends and family.

"We've gotten a lot of calls from people trying to decide whether to cancel their Super Bowl parties," Travers said. "We just tell them what the weather is and let them make their own decisions."

As conditions worsened during the afternoon, motorists who ventured out began to lose their grip on an increasingly slick coating of slush and snow. Numerous spinouts were reported along I-95 between Washington and Baltimore.

"Sometimes they'll bump into someone else, or there's a lot of slush and they'll switch lanes and spin out," said state police Cpl. Mark Pettyjohn of the Waterloo barracks.

Reduced highway speeds were sometimes the results of slow-rolling snowplows. Many drivers were going too fast for conditions, state police said. Trooper Robert Fraley of the Hagerstown barracks said he counted at least 20 accidents on snow- and ice-covered interstates between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

"Speed is a factor," he said. "They're driving like there's nothing on the road."

Police reported that two cars spun out and rolled over on Interstate 70 near the Frederick-Howard county line. The drivers escaped injury. "Both of them drove away with the tow truck drivers," Pettyjohn said.

State police reported I-95 north of Baltimore grew slippery by midafternoon, and troopers were kept busy for several hours with spinouts and disabled vehicles. But by 5 p.m., the precipitation had turned to rain, road salt worked its magic, and the highway was reported clear.

State highway crews were on duty at 4 a.m. yesterday, applying salt and chemicals in anticipation of the storm's arrival. By afternoon, there were 1,950 state employees and contract workers operating about 1,550 pieces of equipment. The work was to continue all night.

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