A winter storm carrying sleet and freezing rain hit Maryland last night with five Maryland counties putting snow emergency plans into effect and salt trucks hitting main roads throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Forecasters predicted freezing rain will continue through this morning's rush hour, resulting in slick streets and traffic headaches.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm was the leading edge of a weather system that dumped snow, sleet and freezing rain from Texas to Missouri yesterday and approached Maryland from the southwest.
"This is a very widespread system," said Dan McCarthy of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., a division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"It's been a while since we've had a widespread storm system like this," McCarthy said, adding this kind of winter front was a return to normal conditions after disruptions for most of the 1990s caused by El Nino and La Nina Pacific Ocean weather patterns.
The storm began moving into Maryland after the evening rush hourwith snow emergency plans in effect in Washington, Garrett, Allegany, Montgomery and Frederick counties beginning at 9:30 p.m.
Shortly before midnight, freezing rain and a handful of fender-benders were reported in Carroll County.
State salt trucks were also on area highways in addition to public works trucks in Baltimore.
"This will not be a catastrophic ice storm. It won't be anything Baltimore hasn't seen a hundred times before," said Jim deCarufel, a National Weather Service forecaster stationed in Sterling, Va.
The city Department of Public Works prepared for the storm last night by calling in full crews - about 160 people and 150 trucks - to spread salt on roads.