Transportation chief Al Foxx stood up in the crowded Cabinet meeting - Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake's first as mayor.
"There's a 20 percent chance of 20 inches or more," he said in a low, rumbling voice. The agency heads erupted into a chorus of gasps and moans.
"Say that again!" said Rawlings-Blake, who had been sworn in as mayor just hours before.
A snowstorm always seems to throw Baltimoreans in a panic. No one feels the burden as acutely as the mayor, who is ultimately responsible for everything from clearing the streets to keeping residents safe.
The snow will be Rawlings-Blake's first challenge in office, just as it was for Clarence Du Burns in 1986 when he was sworn in as mayor after William Donald Schaefer became governor.
The city's emergency operation center is set to open at 11 a.m. today, director Bob Maloney said at the meeting.
More than 150 vehicles will plow the city's streets and scatter salt. The city has 5,800 tons of salt on hand and is expecting a shipment of more than 7,000 additional tons.
Employees who have city-owned SUVs are being asked to return them so they will be available for firefighters and police officers, Maloney said.