The National Weather Service has upgraded Howard County from a winter storm watch to a winter storm warning beginning Tuesday afternoon and continuing to 12 a.m. March 7.
The NWS predicts Columbia and Ellicott City will receive between three to six inches of snow between 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday evening, with the bulk of the accumulation occurring during the day Wednesday.
The NWS is predicting 100 percent chance of precipitation for both days.
Western Howard County could see more accumulation during the storm, with a potential high of seven inches.
Snowfall could continue through Thursday morning, the NWS reports.
The Howard County Public School System is following standard procedure, and will not make a decision or announcement regarding a delay or cancellation until early Wednesday morning, said spokeswoman Rebecca Amani-Dove.
Amani-Dove said the system's transportation department will be "on the roads" at 4:45 a.m., assessing conditions. Superintendent Renee Foose will make a decision, and an announcement, by 5:30 a.m., Amani-Dove said.
The snow could impact testing schedules for elementary and middle school students in the Howard County Public School System. This week and next are the scheduled windows for the Maryland School Assessment; Wednesday, March 6 is the second day of testing for many students.
In the case of inclement weather, according to emails from several schools, the second day of testing will be moved to Thursday, March 7. In the case of a cancellation Thursday, March 7, the second day of testing will be moved to Friday, March 8.
The MSA testing window is Monday-Friday, March 4-15, with two make-up days scheduled for Monday, March 18 and Tuesday, March 19. Amani-Dove said if the school system loses more than two days of testing, the system has to request the Maryland State Department of Education extend the testing window by an additional two days.
Nancy Gainer, spokeswoman for Howard Community College in Columbia, said college officials "are watching the weather very closely."
The final determination to cancel or delay classes or close campus will be made "early (Wednesday) morning," and the decision will be posted on the school's website, Gainer said.
Howard County government has canceled trash and recycling pick-up for Wednesday due to the storm. The county will be employing the slide schedule, meaning Wednesday pick-up will be Thursday, Thursday will be Friday, etc. For more details on the slide schedule, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/holidayschedule.htm.
Howard County Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said the department is working with the county's emergency management team to monitor the forecast and develop plans.
Llewellyn listed the following as key reminders:
- If the roads are bad, limit travel. Give crews time and space to clear roads.
- If traffic lights go out, treat those intersections as 4-way stops.
- Be aware that officers may be in intersections directing traffic - slow down and be aware.
- Be alerts for trees down, road closures, etc.
- If power goes out, know the proper way to use a generator. Keep it outdoors only, away from window, doors and vents. Test batteries in carbon monoxide detectors.
- Keep an eye on your neighbors, especially the elderly, to make sure everyone stays safe.
Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services spokeswoman Jackie Cutler said the deaprtment will begin deploying rescue squads to patrol Route 70 and Interstate 95 on Wednesday morning to help motorists.
If more than six inches of snow accumulates, the HCDFRS will open it's Department Operations Center, Cutler said.
AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning motorists to be advised of hazardous conditions of their Wednesday morning commute.
“The longer motorists can stay off the roads, the safer it will be and the faster area road crews can clear the roads. Our best advice is to just stay home if possible or take mass transit," said Christine Sarames Delise, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "If you do have to drive, understanding how to safely navigate your vehicle during this type of weather will improve your safety and reduce your risk of a crash.”
Baltimore Gas & Electric is urging customers to prepare for power outages by making sure they have a full tank of gas, one gallon of water per person per day for three days, etc.
For more information from BGE, click here.
Late last week, county government urged residents to take the necessary steps to prepare for a severe weather event by in observance of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which runs through Mar. 9.
To stay connected to the county government during a weather event officials advise residents to sign up for NotifyMeHoward, by visiting www.notifymehoward.org and click “Sign Me Up,” or text HOWARD to 411911.
Check back for updates.
Staff writer Sara Toth contributed to this report.