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First snow of 2014 dumps 6 to 8 inches, closes schools, government

Bitter cold temperatures, strong winds expected overnight and into Tuesday

AEGIS STAFF REPORT

1:02 PM EST, January 6, 2014

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The the first snowstorm of 2014 dumped six to eight inches of the white stuff accross Harford County from Thursday afternoon into early Friday morning, forcing the closure of schools and government offices.

On Monday, the weather – heavy morning fog – was a factor in schools opening two hours late.

Driving conditions throughout the weekend, from Friday through Sunday, were treacherous, with mulitple accidents, though none serious, were reported across the county.

At 1 p.m. Monday, it remained to be seen what would happen with schools Tuesday morning, when temperatures are expected to be in the teens, with the wind chill making it feel like -15 degrees.

The county government initially planned to open its offices at 10 a.m. Friday, later moved the starting time back to noon but then announced a complete shudown for the day.

Aberdeen Proving Ground operated on a four-hour delay.

Temperatures were expected to drop throughout Monday into the single digits Monday night, with a low of 7 degrees, and a high of 17 predicted for Tuesday. With wind gusts predicted between 15 and 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph, Harford is under a wind chill advisory from midnight until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"Dangerously low wind chills could then lead to frostbite and hypothermia Monday evening through Tuesday," according to the advisory.

Bob Thomas, spokesman for the county's Department of Emergency Services, said about eight inches of snow fell across the county's northern tier, with accumlations closer to six inches in and around Bel Air and in the eastern and southern areas of the county.

The snow began falling about 3:30 p.m. in the Bel Air area on Thursday and ended around 2 a.m. Friday.

Dangerous roads

First snow-covered, then icy roads made for some difficult driving over the weekend.

Snow and ice were to blame for nearly dozens of accidents between 4 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Friday, while ice caused more than a dozen crashes on Saturday and freezing rain caused about 10 more accidents Sunday morning.

Harford County Department of Public Works, Division of Highways started treating roads before the snow started, dispatching more than 130 personnel, both employees and contractors, Thursday afternoon; they worked until approximately 10 p.m., according to a news release from Robert Thomas, spokesman for the Harford Department of Emergency Services. County and contractor crews and equipment resumed plowing and treating county roads at approximately 3 a.m. Friday.

On Thursday night, Route 161 was for several hours, police said.

A portion of Route 161 [Darlington Road] in the Havre de Grace area remained closed around 11 p.m., several hours after a utility pole was damaged as a result of a two-vehicle accident.

No one was injured in the crash, the result of icy roads, but power lines were downed and the damaged pole later fell across the road, according to Maryland State Police.

Crews with BGE were on the scene at Route 161 and Green Spring Road, clearing the lines and repairing the pole.

Thirteen customers were affected, according to BGE's online Outage Map. Utility officials projected that power would be restored by 3:15 a.m. Friday.

Sgt. Robert Cummins, duty officer and shift commander at the State Police Bel Air barrack, said the crash was reported at 6:50 p.m. Thursday and the road remained closed until late in the night.

Cummins said BGE crews had to remove the downed lines and pole, and then repair the damage.

State Highway Administration crews then had to treat the road.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Friday, Thomas said county roads were passable, but drifting snow was a concern.

The Harford County Department of Emergency Services 911 Center reported 23 accidents occurred throughout the county from 4 p.m. Thursday until 4 a.m. Friday. Four of the 23 accidents resulted in personal injuries.

There was a collision between a tanker truck and an SUV on Route 152 at the I-95 exit ramp shortly after 9 a.m. Friday that had traffic backed up on Route 152 and forced detours for several hours. Minor injuries were reported by the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company which responded.

According to Thomas. the Harford County Emergency Operations Center north of Bel Air activated to Level 1 staffing at 5 a.m. Friday, with Harford County Emergency Manager Rick Ayers and emergency management staff to monitor the storm and conditions throughout the county.

Despite winds gusting to 35 to 40 miles and early morning temperatures in the teens, power outages were minimal. As of 7 a.m., there were less than 15 customers without power in the county, according to the county news release.

In an early morning Facebook post, Ayers had expressed concern about drifting snow on roads and widespread power outages. Those concerns had lessened by mid-morning, but emergency officials continued to advise people to stay off the roads if possible.

"Today one of our concerns is the subfreezing temperatures and wind chill," Ayers said. "Those who venture outdoors should dress for blizzard like conditions and stay hydrated."

"Because of the icy conditions on our roads, those who do not have to travel should wait until conditions improve," Ayers added.

Thomas said Harford County Executive David R. Craig decided to close government offices because of the severe weather and hazardous driving conditions.

The county's emergency services department reported 14 emergency calls in response to road conditions between 3 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, according to a press release.

Only two accidents included injuries and one accident involved a rescue, according to the release.

On Sunday morning, the Harford County Sheriff's Office reported two or three accidents caused by the ice.

There did not seem to be any injuries from them, spokesman Edward Hopkins said.

The emergency services department reported 10 accidents, causing only property damage, from 7 a.m. to noon, spokesman Bob Thomas said.

The National Weather Service issued a freezing rain advisory for Harford County from 6 a.m. to noon Sunday, but then extended it until 3 p.m.

The temperatures were expected to rise Sunday afternoon and into Monday.

A "polar vortex" is set to move in from the Midwest on Tuesday, causing dramatically low temperatures with a wind chill possible of up to 10 degrees below zero.

"As roads refreeze motorists must reduce speed, keep a safe distance from vehicles in front of them and exercise caution," emergency operations spokesman Rick Ayers said Sunday.