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Updates on new snowstorm in region

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Southwest, Airtran cancel many Thursday flightsUpdated 6:13 p.m.: Southwest Airlines will cancel the majority of its flights at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport for a second day, according to a BWI spokesperson.

The cancellations for Thursday mean BWI's largest air carrier has not operated a normal schedule at the airport in nearly a week.

Airport spokesperson Lynda Warehime said BWI is looking pretty good, all things considered.

"It's very windy, but with the airlines having canceled the flights, it's a lot easier [snow removal] operation," she said, explaining that plows have to wait and cleanup is delayed when even one runway is active.

"We're still keeping ahead of it," she said.

AirTran has canceled 163 flights Wednesday and will cancel at least 11 flights Thursday morning, possibly with more to come, according to spokesman Christopher White. And to top that off, they're postponing a "beach party" that was set for BWI on Thursday to launch their new service from Baltimore to Montego Bay.

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman on Consuming Interests

O'Malley: Road conditions will remain perilousUpdated at 4:40 p.m.: Speaking late Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Martin O'Malley gave a blunt warning to state residents that local governments will not be able to scrape their streets down to the pavement anytime soon.

Addressing citizens who have been complaining about the progress of plowing, he said: "Stop already with the, 'Scrape my street down to the pavement.' That cannot happen for the next 72 hours."

O'Malley said the state's efforts and those of local government will be "entirely focused on public safety and clearing one or two lanes" so that humvees and emergency vehicles can use the roads. He warned that roads will continue to be perilous Thursday morning, and said Maryland has been working with Pennsylvania and Virginia to discourage truck traffic, with some success.

On a lighter note, O'Malley said one runway at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport was cleared Wednesday, and "a UPS pilot with a heart for adventure" managed to take off in a cargo plane.

State offices will be closed Thursday, and a state of emergency will remain in effect for at least the next 24 hours, according to the governor.

Michael Dresser

Outages down to 5,400, BGE saysUpdated at 4:08 p.m.: Power outages in the area decreased to about 5,400 by 4 p.m., according to the Web site of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

That was down from about 15,000 at 10:15 a.m., said BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy. About 9,000 of those customers were located in Harford County.

"We certainly do expect the number of outages to continue to increase as long as the storm is here," Foy had said this morning. With tree limbs weakened and weighed down by snow, "this is just insult to injury."

About 1,500 people are working in the field, on 12- to 16-hour shifts in some capacity, she said.

"We're doing our best to restore service where and when we can, but of course safety is our greatest priority," Foy said.

Liz Kay

Mikulski says state could qualify for disaster reliefUpdated at 3:13 p.m.: Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said Wednesday that the federal government would consider the back-to-back storms that battered the mid-Atlantic region over the last week as a single event for the purposes of disaster relief.

The bureaucratic decision won't mean that money starts flowing any sooner. Nor does it guarantee federal disaster aid to the state, though that is considered likely.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley must go through the regular procedure of requesting disaster assistance from Washington. It would likely take weeks, if months, before aid is received.

Federal assistance would be in the form of budgetary relief to the state, which has already spent $70 million fighting the storm, according to Mikulski. In a prepared statement, she said that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano agreed to merge the two storms into a single request.

"Secretary Napolitano said she would call it the Valentine's Day Storm," Mikulski said. "I said, 'Don't send chocolates, don't send flowers, send dough for snow.' This storm has been a white-out for Maryland's state budget. We can't let this snow disaster turn into a budget disaster for Maryland."

The senator reported that she was hunkered down at home in Baltimore on Wednesday.

She said that as someone who stands 4-foot-11-inches, she wasn't about to go out in the snow.

"You might not find me until spring break," she told WJLA television in Washington.

Mikulski, who is running for re-election this year, added: "I know there are some members of the other party who would like to freeze me out."

Paul West

Storm totals now 20 to 30 inchesUpdated at 2:56 p.m.: Things seem to be heading in the wrong direction again this afternoon.

First, the National Weather Service has upped its estimates of the total snow accumulations once this storm finally ends tonight. Instead of the 10 to 20 inches they've been warning about for two days, forecasters have just upped the ante to 20 to 30 inches for Baltimore and its suburbs.

BWI is reporting 11.9 inches at 1 p.m. That makes 41.6 inches of snow so far this month. That breaks the record of 40.5 inches, set in February 2003, making this the snowiest February, and the snowiest month, since snow records began here in 1883.

It is already the snowiest winter, with 72.3 inches so far, by my unofficial calculation. That's nearly four times the annual average.

Read more.

From Frank Roylance's Maryland Weather blog

So-called snowier cities are amusedUpdated at 2:45 p.m.: Binghamton, N.Y., Mayor Matt Ryan is looking forward to talking trash to his little sister, a schoolteacher who moved to the Baltimore area in the mid-1990s because she doesn't like snow.

No doubt about it, Ryan's really going to pile it on — as soon as he can reach his younger sibling. Though Binghamton averages more than 84 inches of snow annually, so far, the city has recorded a paltry 44 inches, or less than three-quarters of the more than 65 inches that have pummeled Baltimore.

"I've tried to call my sister several times, but she hasn't picked up," he says. "She's probably been outside shoveling snow. Not only does she live in Baltimore, she has a house in Ocean City, and she's always going on and on about how much better the weather is in Maryland. As soon as I can reach her, I'm going to say, 'How's that working for you?' "

Mary Carole McCauley

Tremont hotel houses downtown workers, vacationers, its own employeesUpdated at 2:38 p.m.: The streets of Baltimore were eerily empty for a workday. A few emergency vehicles and plows rolled by as a handful of sidewalk shovelers did their work -- largely in vain as a blistering wind blew snow right back.

Veronica Jones was relieved to find an open 7-Eleven and Dunkin Donuts on her journey from the Hampton Inn downtown to the University of Maryland Medical Center on the west side. The emergency room registrar was deemed "essential" and has been staying at the hotel since Sunday.

She had been getting rides from the hotel to work, but officials there decided Wednesday that it was too dangerous, so she laced up her tennis shoes and put on her winter jacket and started walking.

She was able to pick up some laundry detergent so she could wash her clothes, a half-dozen donuts and a coffee.

"I've been at the hotel longer than I thought I would be," she said. "I only thought it would be a couple of days. I've run out of everything. I need to do laundry."

At the Tremont Plaza Hotel downtown, guests and workers were decidedly warmer. Amtrak workers in between shifts were lounging in the lobby as many other business people had left the hotel already for work in area office buildings.

The Huber family was in the restaurant. They had come from their home in Lancaster, Pa., to take their two girls to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Livia, 6, and Haley, 3, had to settle for the hotel fish tank. The restaurant meal was their first out of the room. They'd been ordering room service for two days and wanted a change of scenery.

"We're spending the night tonight and may spend the night tomorrow," said Alyssa Huber. "We're all together and we're having fun."

Keith Huber, her husband, added that he was glad not to be shoveling.

But many people staying in the hotel were working. Their companies had put them up to make sure they could get to work.

Lou Keys, a waiter, has been working double shifts for days to make sure they're all fed -- the restaurant has run out of only a few things. He gets a three-hour break in between the shifts and appreciated the lounge the hotel had set up for workers. The hotel is also providing him three meals a day.

Other workers are staying in the hotel, but Steve Szalecki, revenue manager, said that they have only about 65-70 percent of their normal workforce. Many couldn't make it to work, and with the hotel booked to capacity, there wasn't room for them anyway. Even so, the deli is open extended hours, the restaurant is serving meals and drinks and there is some housekeeping service.

While the entire staff is working overtime to care for stranded travelers and downtown business people, Szalecki said the snow has been a boon for the hotel. Normally not close to booked in January and February, it's been full the last two nights.

"It was going to be a very quiet week," he said. "We lost a couple of reservations because of the snow but we more than made up for it.

"We have some very tired staff members, but we've really thrived during this and will have a strong February because of it."

Meredith Cohn

Snow accumulations start to top 1 footUpdated at 2:30 p.m.: New snow accumulations across Central Maryland at mid- to late- morning have begun to top 1 foot, with the highest numbers, as forecast, in the north and east portions of the state.

Lineboro in Carroll County tops the sampling of snow totals from the area with 15 inches; Severn is reporting 10 inches of new snow; and Gwynn Oak in Baltimore city is reporting 7.5 inches.

Read more.

From Frank Roylance's Maryland Weather blog

'If you keep your door open, they will find you'Updated 2:21 p.m. Outside the Peabody Court Hotel powerful winds whipped sheets of snow through Mount Vernon Square, making it temporarily look more like the plains of North Dakota than one of the prime examples of 19th century urban architecture.

Workers from downtown businesses, as well as stranded travelers, were occupying about 40 percent of rooms in the hotel's 115 rooms, according to Jakob Hofer, who was working the front desk.

Laura Cadden, an employee of Agora Inc, a newsletter publishing company located nearby the hotel, was making the best of being displaced.

Rather than driving to her Fells Point home where, she said, "there is no place to put a car," she walked a few doors down to Mt. Vernon Place and booked accommodations at the hotel. "It is stress free," she said.

For dinner Tuesday, Cadden rendezvoused with friends at a nearby downtown restaurant, Sotta Sopra, and took advantage of the reduced prices being offered during Restaurant Week. "There were only about four tables of people, but the mood was jolly," she said.

Tom Hamrick, food and beverage director at the Peabody, said the heavy snowfall had been good for evening business. "A lot of neighborhood people come in," he said. "People get tired of staying in the house. If you keep your door open, they will find you."

The lunch crowd was thin Wednesday in George's, the hotel restaurant. But one customer, Jeff Weikel, who lives in Mt. Vernon, offered a simple explanation as to why he and his friend, Jackie Kostelec, were eating out.

"There is no food in my fridge," he said.

Rob Kasper

State EMS director says weather challenges "most severe I can recall"Updated at 2 p.m.: Blizzard conditions are challenging even the most trained EMS and ambulance drivers, who have been relying on help from the Department of Transportation and the National Guard to get to emergencies on snow-clogged streets.

"It's a real risk right now, because of the blizzard conditions that are coming on," said Dr. Richard Alcorta, state EMS medical director at the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. "The challenge is you can't see where to go or how to get there. … I've been at MIEMSS since 1992 and from a weather situation, this is the most severe I can recall."

Many counties' EMS providers were on "blue alert," transporting patients to the nearest emergency room, rather than following the typical tracking schedule. Most of the state's fire trucks and ambulances are outfitted with technology that with a click, enables chains to be switched onto tires so the vehicles can drive safely through the snow and ice. And yet, they still were getting stuck.

National Guard Humvees were acting as an extension of local EMS and fire departments, meanwhile EMS drivers were working with the department of transportation to call snow plows to streets snow-choked streets.

"This is one of the times we do the very best we can with the limited resources," Alcorta said. "The response times certainly are going to be slower. The roadway speeds are reduced."

For now, he advised residents to stay home and stay safe.

"Most importantly, stay warm, stay in your homes and do not overexert yourself," he said. "This is a time when people with respiratory and cardiac diseases have an increased risk of overextending themselves and needing to call for emergency care. We would like them to stay safe and healthy."

Kelly Brewington

Under Armour shuts down headquartersUpdated at 12:42 p.m.: Baltimore-based Under Armour shut down its Locust Point headquarters Wednesday for the second day this week after closing Monday, too. Still, the work of sales, marketing and serving customers went on remotely.

"The office is closed, but we're in a virtual world, with everyone having phones or blackberries," said Diane Pelkey, a spokeswoman. "I've been responding to e-mails and working as I normally would. The work still goes on."

Some of the sports apparel company's 700 downtown employees were able to have meetings and conference calls through e-mail and by phone.

"We've been reminding people how they can do it, and encouraged people to bring laptops home in the event we were going to cancel," she said.

The company has 3,000 workers worldwide, in retail stores and at offices in Denver, Amsterdam and China.

Lorraine Mirabella

City breaks its record for snowiest winterUpdated at 11:51 a.m.:The current storm has put Baltimore over the top for its snowiest season on record.

Bryan Jackson of the National Weather Service says that as of 7 a.m. Wednesday, 5.2 inches of snow had fallen since Tuesday at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. That brings the total snowfall since December to 65.6 inches and is the most since record-keeping began in Baltimore. The previous record, from 1995-96, was 62.5 inches.

Meanwhile, Washington is only about 4 inches away from its record of 54.4 inches from 1898-99. Jackson says the city has gotten another 5.1 inches since Tuesday.

Washington Dulles International Airport, which already had its snowiest season before the current storm began, has gotten another 4 inches. That brings its total for the season to 67.5 inches.

Associated Press

More snow-emergency parking available for East Baltimore residentsUpdated 11:48 a.m. Baltimore Councilman James B. Kraft has alerted his constituents that more parking lots may be available for East Baltimore residents. Here's an excerpt from his snow update.

Remember, the city is currently under Phase III of the snow emergency plan --- no one is supposed to be on the roads other than emergency vehicles! Wait until it's been lifted before venturing out:

When you can move your car, I have been told that Johns Hopkins had opened all of its parking lots to the public free of charge. The lots (with the exception of the Caroline Street garage) are also free. You can park on any paved area in Patterson Park. Please do not park on the grass; you may be cited (although I have told the Mayor that, unless necessity demands, we should not issue any citations now – she agreed). The old Woodbourne School (up in Butchers Hill) is also available.

Read more.

From Liz Kay on the Consuming Interests blog

Light rail service suspendedUpdated at 11:39 a.m.: The Maryland Transit Administration has suspended all light rail service.

Michael Dresser

Harford County roads closed to trafficUpdated at 11:28 a.m.: Harford County has closed local roads to traffic, according to Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley. She said Frederick County has joined Montgomery in suspending plowing.

Salt is running low at some locations, but there's plenty at the port of Baltimore if trucks can reach the terminal.

Michael Dresser

Drivers in city, state encouraged to stay off roadsUpdated at 10:55 a.m.: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake has ordered Phase III of the city's snow plan, which means that only emergency vehicles — police and fire officials, ambulances, snow plows and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. workers — are allowed on the road.

The State Highway Administration has also issued a warning urging all Maryland drivers to stay off the roads, due to deteriorating conditions. Winds are gusting up to 50 mph as snow continues to fall.

Michael Dresser and Baltimore Sun staff

City furloughs employeesUpdated at 10:43 a.m.: Some Baltimore employees won't be getting paid for taking a snow day as the second major storm in less than a week hits the Mid-Atlantic.

The city announced Wednesday will be the fifth and final mandatory furlough day under a plan to help the city deal with a budget shortfall. The furlough day had originally been scheduled for May 28.

The city says the furlough does not apply those involved in snow removal, certain fire and police employees and other employees who work in operations staffed around the clock.

The city issued a statement Tuesday saying the change had been agreed to by the presidents of two unions representing city employees.

Associated Press

MTA bus service stops as of 11 a.m.Updated at 10:28 a.m.: MTA will suspend bus service as of 11 a.m. today, a spokeswoman said. Above-ground Metro service has been suspended, but light rail service and Metro service between Mondawmin and Johns Hopkins stations will continue for now, though there will be no connecting services.

Baltimore Sun staff

Downed power lines close I-695 both ways at Eastern AvenueUpdated at 10:36 a.m.: Both the inner and outer loop of the Baltimore Beltway were briefly closed at Eastern Avenue due to downed power lines, according to Maryland State Police.

The downed service lines were reported at 9:48 a.m., said Cpl. Raymond Domico of the Golden Ring Barracks. Troopers set up detours, he said.

About 10:30 a.m., BGE and state police reported that the lanes were reopened.

Read more at Michael Dresser's Getting There blog.

Liz Kay and Michael Dresser

Montgomery, D.C. suspend plowingUpdated at 10:07 a.m.: Montgomery County and the District of Columbia have suspended plowing operations because of poor visibility, according to Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar.

SHA drivers haven't suspended operations but plow drivers have been instructed to pull over if they can't see the road ahead, she said.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Legett told WUSA-TV that 900 plowing vehicles were pulled off the road. "We will get back out there as soon as conditions permit," he said.

Leggett said that PEPCO had also pulled its technicians who were working on restoring power to those who lost power during last weekend's blizzard.

He said that he hoped plowing would resume later in the day.

A spokesman for the Automobile Association of America told WJLA-TV that a combination of the new snow on top of already icy roads made driving treacherous, but that white-out conditions were created by wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. Lars Anderson said that the recent snowstorms will play havoc on the roads long after the snow and ice have melted. "There will be a bumper crop of potholes," Anderson said.

Don Markus and Michael Dresser

BG&E reports 4,500 without powerUpdated at 9:57 a.m.: Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. is bracing itself for additional electric outages as the second major snowstorm hits Maryland.

About 4,500 customers were out of service at 9:45 a.m., but that number is expected to increase as additional snow and freezing rain lands on top of tree limbs and power lines already weighed down with accumulated inches of precipitation.

High winds and other blizzard conditions are also making driving hazardous for restoration crews, according to a company statement.

Liz Kay

NWS: 'Extremely dangerous winter weather'Updated at 8:43 a.m.: With Blizzard Warnings in effect until 7 p.m. Wednesday from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, through Baltimore, to Philadelphia and New York City, the National Weather Service is warning that weather conditions have begun to deteriorate.

With heavy snow and winds gusting as high as 60 mph, attempts to travel could become life-threatening.

Read more.

From Frank Roylance's Maryland Weather blog

Transit services shutting downUpdated at 8:42 a.m.: With conditions deteriorating rapidly, the Maryland Transit Administration is shutting down some of the services it had intended to keep running today.

Deputy state transportation secretary Harold Bartlett said the MTA is phasing out the bus routes it put out on the streets this morning. He said the MTA will try to pick up passengers who are already waiting at stops.

Bartlett said the Metro is running now but that the MTA is likely to soon have to discontinue service on the above-ground part of the line north and west of Mondawmin station. The underground part of the line from Mondawmin to Johns Hopkins Hospital will remain in service, as it has through the twin storms. The issue here is the difficulty in maintaining contact with the third rail that powers the trains.

Light rail service will continue for now. As long as the snow doesn't fall too fast, the movement of the trains themselves can keep the tracks clear, he said.

MARC and commuter bus service have been canceled.

From Michael Dresser's Getting There blog

Worst of storm yet to comeUpdated at 5:30 a.m.: As many in Central Maryland wake up to light snow or none in the air this morning, with only a few inches on the ground, it might be tempting to conclude -- to wish -- that this storm is over. Not so fast.

The National Weather Service predicted a lull in the action during the night as one phase of the storm ended and the next cranked up.

Many in the region were seeing that before dawn today. The snow had stopped, or continued with very fine, wet flakes. And that has prompted Sterling, Va., to reduce predicted storm totals for portions of the forecast area, especially to the south of Baltimore.

But forecasters insist that the heaviest snow, colder temperatures and winds gusting as high as 50 mph are still on the way later this morning and early this afternoon. The Winter Storm Warnings still call for 10 to 20 inches by the time the thing winds down this afternoon.

Read more.

From Frank Roylance's Maryland Weather blog

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