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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

Harford blasted by winter storm, as forecast

Heavy snow continued to fall in Harford County Tuesday night as the temperature dipped into the teens.

While forecasters had predicted a subzero wind chill, the air was still near downtown Bel Air.

North Hickory Avenue was quiet, except for the occasional car, pickup truck or snowplow.

The backup horn of a snowplow could also be heard - a bright yellow Town of Bel Air pickup with a blade attached to the front was being used to clear the parking lot between Town Hall and the Bel Air branch of the Harford County Public Library on North Hickory.

The snow had been falling since around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Harford County remains under a winter storm warning until 11 p.m. Tuesday, and a wind chill advisory through noon Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

As much as 10 inches was predicted to fall on northern Harford County and up to 8 inches on southern Harford, according to the Department of Emergency Services.

No one was out walking on North Hickory – the cold began to bite if one stood in one spot for even a few minutes, and large mounds of snow continued to grow under the steady patter of the white stuff.

Wednesday closings

Harford County Public Schools were scheduled to be closed for students, faculty and staff Monday in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They were also scheduled to be closed Tuesday and Wednesday for students, but open for professional development for faculty and staff. Snow canceled the two professional development days, giving students, faculty and staff a five-day weekend. It was announced Tuesday that schools would be operating on Code Green, meaning only essential staff should report for work Wednesday. They must wait for instructions from their supervisors before coming to work, according to the HCPS website.

Cecil County Public Schools are closed for students and 10-month staff Wednesday because of the inclement weather.

The school system offices will open at 10 a.m.

Harford Community College is scheduled to open at noon Wednesday, according to the college website; students should contact their instructors for information about their final exams.

Harford County government offices will open at 10 a.m. Wednesday and liberal leave will be available for employees.

County senior centers will be closed. Parks and recreation activities that take place on school property are typically canceled when schools close because of the weather.

Regarding activities in parks and recreation facilities, participants should listen to local radio stations such as WAMD or WBAL, or contact their program administrator, according to the county website.

Announcements regarding Harford County Transit schedules will also be broadcast on those stations, or riders can call 410-612-1621 or 410-838-2562 for more information between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Aberdeen Proving Ground will open two hours late Wednesday for non-essential employees.

Traffic headaches

Driving conditions were slick all around the county as the snow continued to throughout the day.

Forty vehicle accidents had been reported since midnight Monday, Rich Gardiner and Jennifer Chenworth-Price of the Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Association noted on their PIO Media Facebook page Tuesday night.

"Stay safe, stay off the roads," their statement read. "There is probably nothing that important to do right now to risk your safety and that of others."

Earlier in the day, Alexis Griffin, of Bel Air, who visited the Klein's ShopRite supermarket on North Main Street to get supplies "before we get snowed in" on Tuesday afternoon, described driving conditions as unfavorable.

"[It's] pretty bad so far," she said. "The roads are pretty covered. It is very slippery."

A number of accidents were reported around the county Tuesday, though none was serious, area police said. Monitored emergency radio dispatches indicated the majority of the accidents involved vehicles running off the slick roads, which in turn caused traffic backups.

County emergency officials had been warning people not to drive since Monday night. In Bel Air and other commercial centers around the county, many businesses closed early, as did government offices.

High temperatures in Bel Air were expected to be only 27 degrees, with a wind chill of 11 degrees, according to http://www.weather.gov, with the snow continuing Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning.

"The Harford area is looking at 4 to 8 inches of snow with 8 to 10 inches being the worst case scenario," National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Widelski said Monday evening.

'Neither rain, nor snow...'

By Tuesday afternoon, conditions continued to worsen as the pace of snowfall quickened. In addition to being pelted with snow, anyone who went outside was hit with numbing cold and a driving wind.

The weather did not faze veteran mail carrier Dennis Schultz, who has been with the U.S. Postal Service for 40 years.

As the wind blew fine white clouds of snow, Schultz made his rounds at the businesses along Bel Air's Main Street.

"To be honest with you, it's been a fairly easy day because most places are closed," he said.

Schultz followed the postal motto: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

"We make it through everything, except the natural disaster, and even then we make it the next day," he said.

The U.S. Taekwondo Academy on Main Street was open for morning classes, and some children could be seen practicing with instructors during the afternoon; however, Senior Master C.J. Chang said afternoon classes were canceled.

Government offices closed

With the large snow accumulation becoming a reality, Harford County government decided to shut down its offices at noon. The Harford County Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening was canceled.

Public schools were already scheduled to be closed to students Tuesday and Wednesday for teacher in-service days. Out-of-county bus service for some schoolchildren was canceled Tuesday.

The Bel Air town meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday was canceled as was the public hearing on a proposed 22-cent sewer rate increase. Both have been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, at Town Hall.

Bel Air town offices closed at noon, although emergency and essential employees remained at work, according to an email from Michael Krantz, director of human resources and administration.

Havre de Grace City Hall closed at 11 a.m. "to all but essential employees," according to a notice posted on the city website. Members of the City Council will meet briefly, however, to vote on moving the items on Tuesday night's agenda to Feb. 3. Mayor Wayne Dougherty said he expected Tuesday night's session to last about five minutes.

Aberdeen City Hall closed at 1 p.m., according to Felicia Bledsoe, administrative assistant to City Manager Doug Miller.

Forecasters predicted an accumulation of 4 to 8 inches of snow Tuesday afternoon.

Temperatures were expected to drop to 3 degrees Tuesday night, with a wind chill index possibly below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

While the forecast calls for partly sunny skies today (Wednesday), the cold will remain through at least Friday, with a high of only 16 degrees expected today.

The U.S. Postal Service issued an advisory Tuesday afternoon, encouraging postal customers to keep the areas around mailboxes clear of ice and snow, as well as the approaches to the mailboxes, along with walkways, steps and overhangs, to ensure mail carriers and their trucks can get in and out.

Watch for drifts

With wind gusts expected between 25 and 30 mph, blowing snow and drifting will also be a concern for anyone driving, Harford Emergency Manager Rick Ayers said in a message sent to Harford residents Monday evening.

The storm also is a "health, fire, safety and driving concern," Bob Thomas, coordinator of community outreach and public information of the Harford County Department of Emergency Services, said Monday evening.

Thomas urged drivers to ensure they have full tanks of gas and make arrangements ahead of time about letting family and friends know when they are traveling.

"Exercise due caution when driving in the snow," Thomas said. "You can't just stop on a dime. Drive defensively in the snow."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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