Snow, ice could slow morning commute

Overnight storm may bring up to 6 inches to Baltimore region



A mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain - with accumulations of up to 6 inches in the Baltimore area - was expected to make this morning's commute especially hazardous.

The National Weather Service posted winter storm warnings for all of Central Maryland, from Frederick and Montgomery counties to the Chesapeake Bay, beginning last night at 6 p.m. and lasting until noon today.

The precipitation was expected to begin falling in the form of snow and sleet last night before changing to freezing rain, ending by about 10 a.m. today, with 3 to 6 inches predicted for Baltimore and the surrounding areas. Temperatures are expected to drop as low as 24 degrees, with a high of 33. Wind gusts of up to 40 mph were forecast.

"In the Baltimore area proper, we think most of it will be snow," said Richard Hitchens, a National Weather Service hydrologist on storm duty yesterday at the regional office in Sterling, Va.

The combination of precipitation, below-freezing temperatures and high winds would make for a difficult morning commute.

The State Highway Administration planned to have its 2,200 plow and salt trucks on the roads last night and this morning.

Sandra Dobson, a spokeswoman for the administration, urged drivers to allow for more than usual traffic congestion in planning their commutes, and most important, to drive slowly.

"The roads could be icy," Dobson said. "And you've got all those cars on the road on icy conditions. It's a recipe for potential disaster if people aren't careful."

Rain and sleet were predicted from southern Anne Arundel County to southern Maryland; at least one forecast model predicted the changeover from rain to snow would occur farther north.

"If that's the case, the snow would be lighter than expected," Hitchens said. "We are in an inexact science. Anything can happen."

Southern Maryland was expected to receive 2 to 4 inches of snow before a possible changeover to rain. But just north of the Mason Dixon Line, and west of Frederick county, there were "heavy snow warnings," and predictions for up to a foot of snow.

The National Weather Service also warned that the icy and windy conditions could cause a significant number of power outages across the region.

There's no more snow in the forecast for Baltimore through Monday. But it will remain cold, with daytime highs in the 30s, and overnight lows in the teens and low 20s.

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