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Baltimore weather: Schools close, snow moves out, icy patches on some roads remain

Snow has moved out of the region, but patches of black ice might form on roads and sidewalks with below-freezing temperatures Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

“Temperatures will fall back below freezing across the region tonight. Any untreated surfaces may become icy, and any surfaces that appear wet may in fact be iced over,” the weather service said in a statement. “Motorists and pedestrians overnight and early Thursday should use caution and be prepared to encounter patchy ice.”

In addition to icy patches, a little light snow was expected to rotate back into the region overnight, the weather service said. Any accumulations will be less than an inch.

Thursday’s forecast is for partly sunny skies with a high near 42 degrees and northwest wind 13 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Thursday night should be partly cloudy with a low around 29 and northwest wind 9 to 11 mph.

In anticipation of weather conditions, public schools in Baltimore and Harford counties announced that they would be closed Thursday. A list of closings, cancellations and early dismissals is available here.

The storm dumped 4.4 inches of snow at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport through 5 p.m. Wednesday. Snow totals were as high as 13.5 inches in parts of Carroll County.

Updated school closings for Baltimore area »

It was the fourth nor’easter storm to hit the East Coast in three weeks, and by far the snowiest system of the winter for the Baltimore region.

Officials asked residents to drive cautiously or stay at home, as roads will likely be slick into Thursday.

“We want people to remain patient,” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said. “Be careful when you drive — just because speed limits [say] you can go that fast, it doesn’t mean you have to.”

County officials said 63 10-ton plows, five 5-to-10-ton plows and 49 pickup truck plows were treating roads.

In Baltimore, city transportation spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes said crews have been deployed since Tuesday afternoon to treat the roads, but that roads can be icy as temperatures drop Wednesday night. Baltimore police reported 120 crashes by Wednesday afternoon.

Slick conditions as a result of the storm Tuesday caused at least one fatal crash.

“It can be very dangerous, especially as the temperatures dip this evening. We’re strongly encouraging people to stay inside,” Barnes said. But crews will “continue to work throughout the night.”

She said crews had been working to salt city roads since 4 p.m. Tuesday. Officials said 3,000 tons of salt had been used by 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Late-afternoon snow totals reported to the weather service included: 11 inches in Norrisville, 11.5 inches in Westminster, 7 inches in Cockeysville, 7 inches in Riva, 7 inches in Columbia, 6.3 inches in Annapolis, 6 inches in Northwest Baltimore and 6.4 inches in Pikesville.

With the snowfall not starting until around daybreak, instead of overnight, the weather service cut back slightly its predictions for accumulations. Forecasters expect 4-6 inches along the Interstate 95 corridor, with less to the south, 8-12 inches north and west of Baltimore City, and 12-18 inches in Carroll County and northern Baltimore and Harford counties.

Wind was also a concern. The Maryland Transportation Authority, which oversees the state’s bridges and tunnels, issued a wind warning for the Bay Bridge, Hatem Bridge and Tydings Bridge. Wind warnings are issued for sustained wind speeds of 30-39 mph for a continuous period of 10 minutes or more, and/or or wind gusts persistently exceed 30 mph over a period of 15 minutes.

Drivers with house trailers, box trailers, motorcycles, vehicles with roof-mount racks containing cargo or any other vehicle that might be subject to high winds were advised to use caution while traveling across those bridges, the MDTA said.

Nor’easters are named for the direction from which their winds batter the coast. The first of this month’s series of storms was the nor’easter that blasted Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic with damaging winds and caused thousands of power outages across the Baltimore region, some lasting for days.

Gov. Larry Hogan urged Marylanders to follow forecasts and avoid traveling if conditions turn treacherous.

“This winter storm is extremely unpredictable, so preparedness is key,” Hogan said.

A Westminster woman was killed Tuesday morning after she lost control of her vehicle because of icy and slick conditions and struck another vehicle near Eldersburg.

Maryland State Police identified the woman as Kaitlyn Taylor McDaniel, 20. She was driving north on Maryland 97 south of Bartholow Road at about 11 a.m. Tuesday when she lost control and crossed the center line, colliding with another vehicle. The crash was caused by icy and slick conditions, police said.

The National Weather Service warned drivers early Wednesday morning to be prepared for significant reductions in visibility at times and advised that they keep an extra flashlight, food and water in their vehicle in case of an emergency. The service said the wet snow could result in power outages.

Carroll County road crews were out at 3 a.m. Wednesday to salt and plow the roads, according to Carroll County Emergency Management Coordinator Doug Brown.

“Our plan for the road is they will keep the main arteries open and branch out to the side streets when its possible,” he said. “Temperatures right now are probably going to drop down into the 20s overnight, but we will stay on top of things and work constantly toward making a safe commute tomorrow morning.”

In Annapolis, city spokeswoman Susan O’Brien said Department of Public Works crews and contractors worked 12-hour shifts to keep main roads clear with 10 trucks operating in the city. They will continue through Thursday.

The snow that has fallen is heavy and wet because temperatures around the region are at or slightly above the freezing mark. Wintry precipitation can fall when temperatures are above freezing on the ground because temperatures are colder at higher levels of the atmosphere. If it falls fast enough, snow can accumulate even on relatively warm surfaces.

“Obviously, it’s very hard this time of year. In March, the ground is warmer,” weather service meteorologist Isha Renta said.

Such wet snow can also quickly compact, making accumulations appear lighter. The weather service measures snow accumulation using a technique that involves a white board that must be cleared once every six hours, to minimize that effect.

This is likely to be Baltimore’s biggest snowfall of the winter. come close to or match the season total for snowfall at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, where 8.7 inches of snow fell from December through February. On average, there is 18-20 inches of snowfall each winter season at BWI.

It could also be Baltimore’s second-biggest spring snowfall on record.

Once the snow moves out, Renta said, there’s not going to be much of a warm-up.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the 40s through the end of the week, “below normal for the first days of spring,” she said.

Normal temperatures are about 10 degrees to 15 degrees warmer.

Steve Greene, who lives in Pennsylvania, and Matt Ross, of Edgewood, were salting roads for the Town of Bel Air on Wednesday. They were on duty since about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, slept at the city’s Public Works Department shop off Route 22 overnight, and were back out in the truck at about 5 a.m.

“We’ll be out until it’s done,” Ross said.

Greene said he’s ready for spring.

“You know what they say about Maryland weather …” Ross said. “I think this will be it for the year.”

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Jessica Anderson, Christina Tkacik, Sean Welsh, Kate Magill, Jon Kelvey, Erika Butler and Phil Davis contributed to this article.

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