Gov. Martin O'Malley urged Marylanders to get off the roads by 10 p.m. Wednesday as a powerful winter storm rolled up the East Coast.
In a State House briefing, the governor warned that the state is expecting a "24-hour event" that will bring "a big swath of nasty snow and ice" to the state.
"Neighbors should stay off the roads," he said.
The administration acted to keep tens of thousands of workers off the roads Thursday by closing state offices. The General Assembly was planning to meet for its morning Senate and House floor sessions, but all House hearings and some Senate hearings were called off.
O'Malley said the state will deploy about 2,700 pieces of snow removal equipment between the State Highway Administration and private contractors.
The governor said he expects extremely cold temperatures to put an extra burden on the electrical grid. He urged Marylanders to reduce their energy use to take strain off the system.
O'Malley also warned Marylanders who are traveling to have at least a half-tank of gas and a fully charged cell phone. He recommended that people traveling during the storm tell others about their planned route.
Highway workers were putting another layer of salt on the state's already heavily treated roads before the storm Wednesday, O'Malley said.
Meanwhile, the state Public Service Commission said it will have staff at the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown around the clock monitor efforts to recover from what are expected to be widespread power outages..
"The commission is requiring Maryland utility companies to make advance preparations and work diligently before, during and after the storm to ensure that customers who lose power are restored as quickly as possible," PSC Chairman W. Kevin Hughes said.
The commission warned that heavy, wet snow could weaken tree limbs affected by last week's ice storm and damage power lines. The PSC warned Marylanders to avoid downed power lines and report them to the local power company.
Further information on power outages and how to contact utilities is available at http://www.psc.state.md.us by clicking Current Storm Outage Information on the home page. Information on emergency centers is available from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency at: http://mema.maryland.gov.