Winter storm creates dangerous driving conditions around Maryland

2 men killed on slick roads

December 16, 2005|By FRANK D. ROYLANCE | FRANK D. ROYLANCE,SUN REPORTER

Two men died in weather-related accidents yesterday as cold air and a soggy storm system moving out of the Deep South combined to put a patchy glaze on area roads.

In Bel Air, police said a 43-year-old Forest Hill resident, Clarence H. Carlos, was killed when he lost control of his car while turning from Route 24 onto U.S. 1 and was broadsided by another vehicle.

In Baltimore, a man in his late 50s was killed after he lost control about 3:45 p.m. of his Chevrolet pickup truck while entering the southbound lanes of the Jones Falls Expressway from North Avenue, police said. A sport utility vehicle hit the truck as it spun across three lanes, and the man was ejected and run over by his truck.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Friday's editions about a fatal accident on the Jones Falls Expressway incorrectly described the event. According to police, a Chevrolet pickup truck entering the southbound lanes from North Avenue, crossed all three lanes at a high rate of speed and hit a sport utility vehicle. The driver of the pickup was ejected and run over by his truck.
The Sun regrets the errors.

The man, whose name was not released, died about an hour later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, police said. The SUV's driver was being treated for minor injuries at Maryland General Hospital, and the accident remains under investigation.

Most Marylanders greeted the storm with caution yesterday, as schools closed and they bolted for home early amid fears that freezing rain would glaze streets by afternoon and slow the region to a crawl.

But not everyone.

"We did have a significant number of accidents, which I would attribute to people driving too fast for conditions," said Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan. "They hit icy spots on ramps and bridges and lost control of their cars."

The department dispatched 1,500 pieces of equipment and spread about 20,000 tons of salt on the state's highways, but icy places persisted.

Several minor accidents on slippery approaches to the Key Bridge slowed traffic in both directions for nearly three hours, officials said.

The evening rush hour was eased by early school closings across the region.

"It was a good call ... to dismiss the children early and get them home. That helped quite a bit," Flanagan said.

Sunshine is forecast for most of the weekend. Today through Sunday, temperatures at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport should climb to near 40 during the day and sink no lower than the mid-20s overnight.

"Baltimore, it looks like, has gotten the better end of the weather deal," said Sarah Allen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Sterling, Va., forecast office.

Road conditions were worse in western portions of the state, where 4 to 6 inches of snow and ice fell. Frederick got 2 to 4 inches. The Eastern Shore got rain, and the Baltimore-Washington corridor got snow and freezing rain.

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley was expecting up to a half-inch of ice, Allen said.

Freezing rain and ice across Georgia and the Carolinas early yesterday closed schools, snarled traffic and caused power outages for more than 350,000 customers.

"The trees and power lines are down everywhere on the road. It's just dangerous to be out," said Rebecca Neal, who was using blankets to keep warm in her powerless Greenville, N.C., home and thinking about finding a hotel for the night.

The mountains of North Carolina and Virginia were hit with a hazardous mix of snow and sleet, with accumulations of 1 to 3 inches expected overnight. "Snow we can plow. Ice we can't," said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Chuck Lionberger.

Yesterday's storm began with light snow in cold air. As the storm center approached from the South, it drew in warm air from the Atlantic, and the snow soon changed to freezing rain.

By midafternoon, sidewalks in downtown Baltimore were icing over, and, as traffic picked up, crews were throwing salt wherever they could. A pelting, icy rain greeted the few who braved a walk in the Inner Harbor.

Lena Franklin was trying to navigate a slippery corner near St. Paul Street on her way to a meeting.

"These were the wrong shoes," said Franklin as she took small steps over the ice in tall, purple heels. "I think it's going to be fine," the Baltimore County resident said. "People just need to take their time."

Public works officials in Baltimore reported no significant transportation problems or street icing.

Ceil Lambert made her way along Pratt Street holding a large umbrella that threatened to collapse in the wind.

She was hours away from her drive home but was dreading it. She echoed a familiar lament about Baltimore drivers this time of year.

"They cannot handle it," said Lambert, a city resident. "They just hear it's going to snow, it's going to ice, and they panic."

Forecasters said that despite the changeover to rain, road sensors indicated that road surfaces remained cold enough - generally between 25 and 28 degrees - to freeze the rain.

Ice and snow piled up in parts of Western Maryland. Though the Baltimore area got little, all public school systems in the region closed early except for Baltimore's. Most private schools followed suit.

Carroll County's government offices closed at 2 p.m. and the Carroll Area Transit System, an intracounty transportation system, shut down at 1 p.m.

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