As the region braces itself for heavy snowfall Wednesday night into Thursday, Howard County agencies have already started to prepare.
The National Weather Service is predicting between 6 and 10 inches of snow for the county, with up to a foot of accumulation possible at elevations of more than 800 feet. A winter storm warning will be in effect starting at 8 p.m., and Gov. Martin O'Malley has already declared a state of emergency for Maryland in anticipation of the snow.
Howard County has already exceeded its $1.2 million budget for snow storms this fiscal year, according to county spokesperson Mark Miller. Before last Sunday's snow, he said, the county had cumulatively spent $2.4 million on weather incidents -- double what was budgeted.
Miller said the county still had a $2 million natural-disaster contingency fund to fall back on. And if weather events persist, the county can also draw money from any projected surpluses or savings.
According to county spokesperson Alexandra Bresani, county department heads met this morning with the Office of Emergency Management, as part of the normal process of preparing for a storm.
Bresani said county snow plowing crews had adequate salt supplies and were getting ready to go out and pre-treat the roads. The county is responsible for clearing 1,100 miles of roadway. The average snow event requires crews to treat roads with between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of salt. The county has also been using liquid magnesium, which helps keep salt effective at very low temperatures.
Miller encouraged county residents to fill any prescriptions before snowfall begins tonight, and to check in on elderly or vulnerable neighbors throughout the storm. The county will send out weather updates through its NotifyMe Howard system and via social media.
County Department of Public Works officials announced they planned to close Ellicott City's Main Street for snow removal at 10 p.m. on Thursday night. The road will reopen Friday morning, according to Howard County's official Twitter account.
Several Howard County Public Schools athletic events have been moved up a few hours in anticipation of the snow. The school system announced that all HCPSS school and community-sponsored events must conclude by 8 p.m. tonight.
A work session on school Superintendent Renee Foose's operating budget was initially scheduled for 7 p.m. this evening but will now start at 5:30 p.m.
A River Hill Route 108 design meeting scheduled for tonight at Claret Hall will proceed as planned, from 7 to 9 p.m.
A Howard County delegation hearing on statewide issues and two recently proposed local bills scheduled for Thursday will be cancelled if the public school system closes for the day, closes early or cancels all afternoon and evening activities on Feb. 13.
This story will be updated as more information about closings and cancellations come in.