A fast-moving winter storm last night brought the Baltimore area the biggest snowfall of the winter, causing scores of accidents and sending road crews scrambling to clear highways from Garrett County to the Chesapeake Bay.
At least 3 inches of snow was expected on the ground by this morning in Baltimore City, and up to 6 inches in the northern and western suburbs. A winter storm warning, which the National Weather Service posted posted yesterday afternoon, was set to expire at sunrise today.
Numerous counties had snow emergencies last night, and Baltimore City police were ordered to travel only to respond to calls.
The storm was producing heavy bursts of snow, sometimes accompanied by thunder and lightning, and 1 to 3 inches had accumulated by midnight across central Maryland, said Jay Strong, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Sterling, Va. The snow was heavier in Washington and Garrett counties, with up to 5 inches by midnight.
Fran Ward, spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, said 1,500 salt trucks and plows were deployed across the state last night. Ward said road conditions varied from wet and slushy to snow-covered and slick. "Right after sundown, the temperature was falling, things started happening," she said.
In Carroll County, police dispatchers urged motorists to stay off the roads after numerous fender benders were reported between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., including several on Interstate 70. Howard County police also reported very slick conditions and several accidents by midnight last night.
Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works, said that about 75 trucks were out in the city last night. By tonight, said Kocher, "the streets will be clear so you can see the purple lights off the snow-covered lawns and trees," referring to colored lights set up around the city to support the Baltimore Ravens.
The wintry precipitation was caused by a low-pressure system moving in from the west, said Dewey M. Walston, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. He said skies should clear this morning, but temperatures will remain in the low 30s.