City avoids storm wrath

Western Maryland hit with as much as 8 inches of snow

'We escaped the bullet'

Wet roadway might have contributed to fatal Laurel crash

January 07, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

A fast-moving low-pressure system carrying plenty of Gulf Coast moisture dumped up to 8 inches of snow in parts of Western Maryland yesterday and left a wintry coating in Baltimore's northern and western suburbs while the city saw mostly rain.

The season's biggest storm also produced hazardous conditions on the highways - causing numerous fender benders. Police said they were uncertain, however, whether wet or slippery conditions caused the night's worst crash, which killed two people and injured several others on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near Laurel.

U.S. Park Police said a northbound vehicle crossed the median near Route 32 in Anne Arundel County about 8 p.m. and collided head-on with a southbound limousine. Two of the limousine's four occupants were dead at the scene, and the others were hospitalized.

The National Weather Service forecast had called for 1 to 3 inches of snow in Baltimore, with 2 to 4 inches in the northern and western suburbs. But little snow materialized, forecasters said, in part because cold air did not arrive as quickly as anticipated.

"I guess we escaped the bullet this time," said John Newkirk, program manager at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "But we weren't expecting a lot for Baltimore anyway."

However, the city has a chance for snow today. Forecasters expect an "upper-level disturbance" in the storm system to move across the region, clouding skies and triggering scattered snow showers. The region can expect highs in the mid-30s.

"We don't expect more than a dusting in the city, maybe an inch north and west of the city," said Dewey Walston, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Yesterday, as the storm system moved northeast from the Gulf, it dumped 4 to 6 inches of snow in Garrett County, and 3 and 4 1/2 inches in the Allegany County towns of Cumberland and Frostburg, respectively. Hancock in Washington County reported 8 inches.

"It's like a winter wonderland out here," said Bill Quigley, chief executive officer at Wisp ski resort in McHenry.

The resort's Bear Claw Snow Tubing Park had a crowd after dark. "It's nuts," Quigley said of the 800-foot-long, seven-lane tubing park. "Almost every snow tubing session was sold out."

While good news for snow buffs, the storm was bad news for drivers - and for some Somerset County residents, who had property damage from what was described as a small tornado.

About 4 p.m., the storm drew up a waterspout in the Chesapeake Bay off the Somerset County shoreline, and the twister touched down on Deal Island. It damaged a few summer homes and a trailer and knocked down a tree and pole in the vicinity of Chance, police said.

About the same time, in Baltimore County, state police said a sport utility vehicle overturned on rain-slick Interstate 95 near Rosedale, causing a brief halt to traffic. The driver, the only occupant, was not injured. His name was not available.

Police said a Toyota SUV was northbound, at a speed too great for the heavy-rain conditions, when it hydroplaned and overturned in the fast lane.

In Baltimore, 20 salt trucks were patrolling the streets last night as temperatures dropped below freezing and the surfaces began to glaze with ice.

Sun staff writers Scott Calvert and Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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