Winter arrives in area with icy mix

January 22, 2007|By From staff reports

Winter waited out an unusually warm month before delivering its first measurable snowfall to the Baltimore area yesterday - in most areas less than an inch, but enough to send drivers skidding into numerous accidents on the highways.

Flakes were falling across much of Central Maryland by midafternoon, and the snow did not take long to glaze roadways. Multiple-car accidents about 3:45 p.m. closed portions of Interstate 97 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, resulting in minor injuries, police reported.

About the same time on the Jones Falls Expressway, highway crews were applying salt to battle slippery conditions that contributed to crashes on the elevated roadway - including a collision in the southbound lanes that ripped the front bumper off one of the cars involved.

Area police said most, if not all, of the accidents resulted from motorists driving too fast for slippery conditions, not leaving enough room for maneuvering, and losing control of their vehicles on snow-covered streets.

Freezing drizzle

The National Weather Service said that while the snowfall was slight, it was being followed by freezing drizzle last night that could prove hazardous for travelers.

In Baltimore, city road crews concentrated on main arteries, looking ahead to the workweek-starting morning rush.

Tim Burgess, chief of the Baltimore County Department of Highways, said that by 2 p.m. - before the snow was falling in the metropolitan area - about 300 vehicles, including about 65 owned by private contractors, and 400 workers began hauling salt from 11 storage domes across the county and treating roads. He said the county has about 40,000 tons of salt at its disposal.

Early start

"We bring the trucks and personnel in early so they can load the vehicles with salt and hit the roadways before the snow accumulates and [while] traffic is light," Burgess said. "We try to stay ahead of the weather."

Burgess said the forecast indicated that freezing precipitation was to end about 3 a.m., and that road conditions would be good for the morning rush. Still, he cautioned that there might be icy roadways in some parts of the county.

Lt. James Artis, a Baltimore County Fire Department dispatch supervisor, said emergency calls for accidents during the snowfall were no more than on a day of hard rain. "There were a few accidents involving injuries but nothing serious," he said, speculating that had the snow fallen on a weekday, there would have been more accidents.

The area's first measurable snow came later than in the winter of 2005-2006, when a few December snowfalls proved the last until the season's one big, mid-February storm.

There is no snow in the forecast for today, but with a high temperature expected to be 37 degrees, roads could remain icy, the National Weather Service said.

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