Commuters are waking to sleet and freezing rain on roads, sidewalks… (Sun photo by Jeffrey F. Bill )
Icy rain coated the Baltimore region with a thin glaze Wednesday morning, toppling trees, slickening roads and knocking out power for about 151,000 customers statewide, though outages began falling by midday.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. expects to have most Baltimore-area outages restored by Thursday night, but officials said some repairs could last into Friday.
Ice accumulations ranged from about a quarter-inch throughout much of the region to a half-inch in Manchester, according to the National Weather Service. A winter storm warning remained in effect through 1 p.m. in Carroll, northern Baltimore and Harford counties, with a freezing rain advisory in Howard County through noon. Freezing rain advisories to the south and east of those areas were canceled.
"The ice has caused many trees to fall throughout the metro area this morning, taking power lines with them," said Jessica Puchala, a Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman. "Utility and state highway crews are responding to this dangerous situation. Please do not approach downed power lines."
Power outages reached a peak of about 92,000 in BGE's territory about 11:30 a.m., and that number had fallen to 84,000 by about 2:15 p.m. The largest numbers of outages were in Baltimore County, with 45,000 customers without power, and Carroll County, where 21,000 customers were without power.
Outages statewide reached 151,000 by 11:30 a.m., falling to 138,000 by 2 p.m.
BGE officials said 900 utility employees and contractors were out repairing outages, restoring power to 52,000 customers by 3 p.m.
“BGE crews are seeing significant tree-related damage," Carol Dodson, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE, said in a statement. "Removing tree debris that is coated with thick ice -- a task that must be completed before work can begin to fix damaged electric equipment -- is even more time consuming than removing normal tree debris and will also extend outage durations."
State highway officials expected pavement in many areas to dry by Wednesday afternoon, but would keep crews at the ready overnight to address any wet spots that might refreeze, spokesman David Buck said. More than 1,800 State Highway Administration trucks were out salting roads overnight and through the morning, officials said.
Temperatures had been expected to warm into the 40s by the afternoon, but were still hovering in the lower to mid-30s as of about 2 p.m. Lows Wednesday night into Thursday morning were expected in the mid-20s.
The ice and some snow prompted school closings across the region. Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County schools were on a two-hour delayed opening. Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County schools were closed.
Liberal leave was in effect for state of Maryland employees through noon.
Winter storm warnings were in effect through 1 p.m. in Harford, northern Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties. Freezing rain advisories were in effect in southern Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County.
Dozens of flights out of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport were canceled or delayed Wednesday morning, with dozens more incoming flights cancelled.
Several counties, including Harford County and Baltimore County, were under snow emergency plans through the afternoon or evening, meaning people cannot park in designated snow emergency zones.
Wednesday afternoon, skies were expected to remain mostly cloudy with gusty winds kicking up by the evening hours. Temperatures were expected to drop to the mid-20s, with wind chills in the lower 20s.
Partly cloudy skies with highs in the mid-30s and lows around 20 degrees were forecast Thursday. Mostly cloudy skies, highs in the upper 30s and lows in the lower 20s were forecast Friday.
Saturday could reach the upper 30s before a chance of snow arrives overnight into Sunday, with a wintry mix forecast to end the weekend.