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News Maryland Howard County Ellicott City

Wintry mix leads to wet conditions, little accumulation in Howard

While the threat of a few more inches of snow remains possible, much of Wednesday morning's early dusting has given way to rain, resulting in a wet snow day for Howard County.

At approximately 2:30 p.m., the National Weather Service revised its forecast for Howard and surrounding counties from a winter storm watch to a winter weather advisory.

On Main Street in Ellicott City, many shops and boutiques were closed Wednesday, but several restaurants were open — with very few customers.

“We’re a little slower than normal,” said Phoenix Emporium owner Mark Hemmis. “We’ll be busy tonight. People will want out of the house.”

Even with the forecast at its worst, Hemmis said he never considered closing.

“We’ve been through a lot worse, like blizzards and floods,” he said. “The real concern would have been if we did get a lot of snow. When that melts, it floods worse than when it rains.”

Across the street at Cacao Lane, owner Owen Hanratty said he was expecting Wednesday to be “a normal night for us,” and he, too, had not been worried by the forecast.

“It’s never an issue for us,” he said. “We’re always open.”

At All Time Toys, one of the only stores open along Main Street, owner and manager Jason Barnes said business had been slow, but typical for a Wednesday afternoon.

“You never can tell with the weather,” he said. “They say it’s going to rain, it floods. They say it’s going to snow, and this happens.”

The winter weather advisory will remain in effect until 3 a.m. Thursday, and the NWS is predicting between one to three additional inches of accumulation. 

Even so, the Maryland State Highway Administration warned drivers that, despite little to no accumulation on sidewalks and roads, conditions could deteriorate as the temperature drops.

"Don't be misled by the bare pavement you may see as you wake up this morning," SHA administrator Melinda Peters said. "Conditions will change rapidly and we're urging driver to stay off the roads and leave the driving to our crews."

SHA has more than 2,000 crews patrolling state roads, plowing and treating them with salt.

This morning's light dusting and threat for more was enough for the Howard County Public School System to close schools and offices for the day.

All evening activities in schools — both school-sponsored and community-sponsored — also have been canceled.

This includes high school athletic practices, and games.

The cancellation has disrupted testing for county elementary and middle school students. This week and next are the scheduled windows for the Maryland School Assessment; Wednesday, March 6 was supposed to be the second day of testing for many.

School officials said in the event of a cancellation or day, the second day of testing would be moved to Thursday, March 7. In the case of a cancellation or delay March 7, the second day of testing will be 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. If the school system loses more than two days of testing, said spokeswoman Rebecca Amani-Dove, the system has to request the Maryland State Department of Education extend the testing window.

Neighboring Baltimore, Carroll, Prince George's and Montgomery counties also canceled school for the day. Howard Community College is also closed.

Columbia Association spokesman David Greisman said CA is continuing normal operations, including programs and classes, although swimming lessons at Columbia Gym have been canceled along with all martial arts classes.

The Clippers swim team will end practices at 5 p.m, Greisman said. 

CA's Before and After School Care programs are also canceled, and a liberal leave policy is in effect for CA employees.

The Howard County Library System announced shortly before 6:30 a.m. that all branches are closed.

Howard County government is operating on a liberal leave policy, according to spokesman Mark Miller.

The county has canceled trash and recycling pick-up for Wednesday. It 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.

On Tuesday, 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.

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 the area gets more than six inches of snow, the HCDFRS will open its Department Operations Center, Cutler said. 

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 write Luke Lavoie contributed to this report. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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