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NewsMarylandHarford CountyBel Air

Harford dodges worst of late season snowstorm with mainly rain

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Much of the predicted snowstorm that closed local schools and put highway crews on the alert Wednesday failed to materialize in Harford County.

Predictions for snow accumulations fluctuated as the late-winter storm system, known as Winter Storm Saturn, approached the Mid-Atlantic region. The storm left much of the Eastern Seaboard with wet and heavy snow, power outages, flooding and major traffic accidents, although Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region escaped with mostly mixed rain and snow, and high winds, according to Weather.com.

Weather forecasters had predicted snow accumulations as high as 10 inches for the Baltimore metropolitan region, but Harford and Cecil counties saw little to no snow, depending on the area.

At mid-afternoon, the two counties had experienced some snow, some sleet and some rain, but not a lot of any of them. Rain continued throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.

Temperatures were above freezing during the daylight hours and remained so after sundown. Winds were blustery, as had been forecast, but there was no snow.

No serious traffic incidents were reported by Harford law enforcement agencies Wednesday. No fires or emergency incidents were reported on the Harford Fire & EMS Association media Facebook Page or by Harford County Emergency Operations.

"I think those meteorologists are checking their numbers again!" Harford Fire & EMS Association Rich Gardiner posted on the association's Facebook page.

Nothing but rain

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty said he met with the director and deputy director of the city's Department of Public Works Tuesday evening to ensure all trucks and salt were available, and staffers were placed on 12-hour shifts.

"We've had absolutely nothing here but rain," Dougherty said late Wednesday afternoon.

The mayor said the atmosphere at City Hall was "business as usual," and the only reported impact from the storm was some tree limbs knocked down.

"We had minor branches down, but our crews hit that right away," he said.

Aberdeen Mayor Michael Bennett said Wednesday had "just been a rain event."

"We've had all the trucks ready to go, the salt, but thank the Lord, we haven't needed it so far," Bennett said.

Aaron Stewart, a spokesman with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, reported only two minor traffic accidents, in Havre de Grace and in Abingdon.

"As far as a county as a whole is concerned, no, we didn't have anything, thank God," Stewart said.

No major traffic incidents were reported on the I-95 corridor through the JFK Memorial Highway Barrack, either, according to a trooper at the barrack.

Ready in Cecil

On the eastern shore of the Susquehanna River, officials in the towns of Port Deposit and Perryville were ready for the worst and happy with the outcome.

Port Deposit Town Administrator Rod Heinze spent a fitful Tuesday night listening to the high winds outside his house, thinking he would have to deal with at least 3 inches of snow the next morning.

"When I got out of bed [Wednesday] morning and my wife said, 'There's no snow on the ground,' I was one of the happiest people in town," Heinze said.

He and his counterparts in Harford and Cecil spent Monday and Tuesday preparing for the worst as they put municipal crews on standby, ensured trucks and snowplows were prepped and ready, topped off road salt supplies and more.

"We've had our trucks [ready] and our employees scheduled and lined up, and we were all set . . . It sounded like it could have gone either way, and it went probably the best way it could," Perryville Mayor Jim Eberhardt said Wednesday afternoon.

Few power problems

Despite high winds gusting above 40 mph in some instances, there were few power disruptions reported in either county during the day on Wednesday.

At 7:30 p.m. the Baltimore Gas & Electric online outage map showed no power disruptions among the company's 100,000 residential and business customers in Harford.

Delmarva Power's online outage map likewise showed no outages among its 5,100 customers in northeastern Harford. The company did report 25 customers did not have power in the Conowingo ZIP across the Susquehanna River in northwestern Cecil County.

As the forecast for snow kept shifting early in the day, the county's Emergency Operations Center was partially activated in the morning, but personnel who were called in for storm duty were released around 11 a.m., according to Bob Thomas, spokesman for Harford County government. As an earlier precaution, Harford County highway personnel had been ordered to report for duty at 4 a.m. Wednesday.

"There was some [mensurable] snow in the Norrisville and Whiteford areas" in the northwestern and northeastern sections of the county, respectively, Thomas said Wednesday evening.

"Mostly what we got was rain, a good drenching," he said.

County government offices were open Wednesday, with employees given a liberal leave option.

Schools closed

With earlier forecasts calling for up to eight inches of snow during the day, Harford County Public Schools canceled classes, as did the public schools in neighboring Baltimore and Cecil counties. Harford Community College also closed.

In Fallston, it was still 38-39 degrees at sundown Wednesday, with rain falling. Most of the snow that fell overnight had been washed away by the rain.

The National Weather Service's latest forecast for the Bel Air area says to expect more rain overnight into the early hours of Thursday morning, but only negligible amounts of new precipitation are expected. With an overnight low of 30 forecast, there could be some slippery spots on roadways.

Winds are also expected to continue in the 21-24 mph range overnight, with gusts up to 46 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The State Highway Administration, which earlier in the day closed the Bay Bridge because of high winds, continued to warn motorists to take extra precautions when driving Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

"With daylight's end, conditions could deteriorate for drivers, so State Highway Administration crews continue patrolling Maryland roads – plowing and/or treating roads with salt as needed," stated an SHA media advisory issued at 3:30 p.m. "The Emergency Operations Center is activated, where personnel are monitoring conditions and deploying resources as necessary. SHA cautions drivers that while road have been mainly wet, a drop of just a few degrees may cause roads to become slippery and treacherous.

The advisory urged drivers to slow down, be aware of downed trees and other obstructions in roadways and to treat any intersections with non-functioning signals as a four-way stop situation.

The latest NWS forecast for Bel Air on Thursday morning is mostly cloudy and breezy, with a high near 41 and north winds 18 to 22 mph.

Check back with http://www.exploreharford.com for updates.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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