Surprise snow slicks roads around Maryland

Dusting sends cars skidding

  • Traffic barely crawls, in spurts and stops at the intersection of Sykesville (Route 32) and Liberty roads (Route 26).
Traffic barely crawls, in spurts and stops at the intersection… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
December 10, 2010|By Frank D. Roylance, The Baltimore Sun

Winter weather arrived in Central Maryland on Friday with a minor dusting of snow and major headaches for motorists.

State and local police reported scores of minor accidents north and west of the city as the snow squall moved across the region. The flakes made roads already chilled by more than a week of below-normal temperatures unexpectedly slippery. Salt trucks responded, but many drivers and some school buses were delayed, and many roads remained slick past sunset.

One crash in northeast Baltimore County just before 1 p.m. resulted in life-threatening injuries.

County police said a bread truck and a passenger car collided on Jarrettsville Pike in Jacksonville, between Stansbury Mill and Manor roads. All three victims were taken to Sinai Hospital. One of the car passengers was listed in very serious condition.

State highway officials said the roads had not been pretreated because the forecast had called only for flurries. Air temperatures hovered near the freezing mark.

Baltimore County police spokeswoman Louise Rogers-Feher listed 36 weather-related accidents Friday, 24 of them in the Franklin police district, in the county's northwest sector.

Carroll County was also hit hard. Doug Ward, a former police officer, described the midafternoon conditions near Routes 32 and 26 as "a sheet of ice."

Lt. Phil Kasten of the Carroll County sheriff's department, said there were 16 accidents that resulted in property damage and four in personal injury, none of them serious.

"The bulk of the accidents have been vehicles that left the roadway or vehicles that have struck other vehicles after they left the roadway," Kasten said. "We've had problems all over the county."

It was Tom Rio's first day on the job as Carroll County's interim director of public works. He said he spent it "catching up" with a storm that hadn't been forecast.

"We were all caught by surprise," he said. "We thought it was going to be a few snowflakes, but Mother Nature had something else in mind."

In Howard County, police had more than 100 calls between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. reporting collisions. There were no serious injuries or rollovers.

The State Highway Administration's CHART system reported accidents on Interstate 70 from Washington County to Howard County. A tractor-trailer overturned on I-270 in Montgomery County. There were no reports of serious injuries.

SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said that in many cases, drivers were moving at speeds better suited for dry conditions. "The speed limit is set for ideal conditions, and when they're not ideal, you have to slow down," he said.

Icy roads prevented school buses from reaching most of the 12 schools in Baltimore County's northern Hereford Zone. School spokesman Charles Herndon said students were held at schools until salt trucks could tackle the problem, or parents arrived to pick them up.

The parent of a student at 5th District Elementary School in Upperco told the staff there it took her two hours to drive nine miles.

More snow is expected in Western Maryland this weekend. Gischlar said the SHA will pretreat highways in Garrett and western Allegany counties with a mixture of salt brine and beet juice to slow freezing. Rain is forecast for Central Maryland, with a chance for some snow showers Sunday night.

Howard Silverman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said Friday's fast-moving storm dropped no more than a few tenths of an inch of snow.

The possibility of snow Friday, and its potential impacts, had been discussed by meteorologists, Silverman said. "It was not off the probabilities. But it was not a definite forecast, either."

The online forecast discussion from Sterling posted at 9:40 a.m. noted "several reports of measureable snow," which forecasters said "shouldn't be a big deal."

No snow or hazardous-weather advisories were issued. A short-term forecast at 11:48 a.m. said that "just about everyone will receive a few snowflakes. But a few communities may receive a light dusting of snow, a quarter-inch or less."

December is running more than 5 degrees colder than the long-term average. The cold contributed to the death of an elderly Anne Arundel County resident, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It was the third death this fall in which hypothermia was found to be a contributing factor. The others occurred in late October and early November in Cecil County and Baltimore City.

All three people had other underlying health conditions, according to the office of the chief medical examiner. Last winter, 42 Marylanders died of causes that included hypothermia.

State Health Secretary John M. Colmers urged Marylanders to "check on friends and neighbors, especially seniors who may be living alone."

After a brief warm-up this weekend, temperatures in Central Maryland are forecast to fall again, with highs near 30 degrees and overnight lows in the teens.

Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser, Don Marcus and Larry Carson contributed to this article.

Maryland weather blog: Frank Roylance on meteorology

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