Less snow than expected, but a fresh blanket in northern Md.

Frigid temperatures forecast until a new chance for icy precipitation Saturday

December 10, 2013|By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

Jim Cantore came to Baltimore looking for heavy snow, but all he got was some slush — plus a hot dog and a couple of six-packs of beer.

The Weather Channel personality follows extreme weather across the country, but the weather was less severe than expected when he reported live from Pratt Street on Tuesday. So he took up some employees of downtown advertising firm Planit on an offer for some beer, and a chef from the Yard Bar and Grille brought him the restaurant's signature Yard Dog.

A system that was forecast to bring a punch of fast-accumulating snow to the region underperformed after predicted bands of intense precipitation failed to materialize. While areas in northern Maryland picked up several inches on top of Sunday's greater-than-expected snowfall, those in and around Baltimore saw less.

The National Weather Service did warn of icy spots Tuesday night as any wet surfaces from earlier in the day will likely freeze.

With the threat of wintry precipitation over until Saturday at the earliest, public concern shifted to frigid temperatures. With lows dropping into the teens, there is a chance the region won't rise above freezing until Friday.

Weather spotters measured about 4 inches of snow Tuesday in Westminster, just shy of 3 inches in Northeast Baltimore, 3 inches in Bel Air and more than 2 inches in Columbia. The 1.3 inches measured at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport brings Baltimore's seasonal tally to 2.9 inches, a tenth of an inch shy of normal December snowfall.

That makes this month Baltimore's snowiest December since the record-winter of 2009-2010, when 20.1 inches — a normal seasonal snowfall total for the region — fell during the month.

The snow meant a four-day weekend for many schoolchildren after the cleanup from Sunday snow and ice extended into Monday. Officials in Baltimore and in Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties decided to cancel school again early Tuesday, faced with the threat of more snow.

The forecast and slippery conditions that developed by 7 a.m. also kept many commuters off the roads. Federal government offices in the Washington area and Social Security Administration offices in the Baltimore area were closed, while Fort Meade was closed to all but "mission essential" employees.

Government offices in Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties were closed, while Howard and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City were on liberal leave.

In Carroll, the county's annual tree-lighting ceremony scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed until Dec. 17. In Harford, the county's Transit Link commuter service ceased operations. Anne Arundel school officials postponed a public forum on their search for a superintendent to Wednesday night.

Weather closures came during final exams at some colleges and universities. In Anne Arundel County, exams went on as scheduled at the U.S. Naval Academy despite the institution technically being closed, while Anne Arundel Community College shifted exams scheduled for Tuesday to the same times and places Dec. 17.

Baltimore's emergency operations center was buzzing with activity, though things were running smoothly with more than 1,100 tons of salt and temperatures slightly above freezing keeping pavement wet.

By mid-morning, city fire officials had received nearly 100 calls, 30 to 40 more than normal, and the city's human resources department was trying to learn how three people were turned away from area shelters the night before, officials told Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in a morning briefing.

"We certainly did prepare," Rawlings-Blake said after the briefing. "All of us understand how serious it can be, so we remain on high alert."

The city Health Department issued a Code Blue alert for Tuesday night through Friday, with lows in the teens and lower 20s forecast nightly and highs in the 20s and lower 30s during the day. City shelters were on standby, and efforts were being made to encourage homeless people to come in from the cold.

Another chance for wintry precipitation is expected to arrive Saturday, potentially involving a mix of snow, rain and sleet. Chris Strong, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington forecast office, told the mayor and city officials via conference call that he was not expecting a major storm.

Strong said bands of heavy snow that were expected across the region Tuesday stayed mostly to the north and west of Baltimore, keeping most areas short of the 4 inches of snow that had been forecast.

That disappointed some, Cantore in particular.

"We're at 32 degrees, but it's not snowing intense enough, plus there's been enough pretreating of these roads," Cantore said during an early morning live shot.

"I feel like A-Rod in the postseason with my DC/Baltimore snow luck," Cantore said via Twitter, referring to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. "Swinging and missing a lot!!!"

Planit colleagues Jessica Oring and Evalyse Limon read the tweets and offered to bring Cantore a couple of six-packs from their 10th-floor Pratt Street office, and they ended up joining him on the air briefly.

"I think he was a little disappointed with the storm, so he just wanted something else to talk about," Oring said.



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