As the area copes with a blast of Arctic air this week, weather forecasters are predicting wintry precipitation for Friday.
The temperature downtown was expected to drop to 18 degrees Tuesday night, with the wind chill making it feel like 5 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures in the area are not expected to rise much above 30 degrees until Monday. Forecasters predict Friday and Saturday nights will be especially cold, with low temperatures in the teens.
The drop in temperatures prompted city health officials to declare a Code Blue alert for Tuesday through Sunday evening, triggering additional emergency services for the homeless.
Code Blue is typically activated when the temperature, including wind chill, drops below 14 degrees.
Chuck Buettner, director of the 180-bed Baltimore Rescue Mission at 4 N. Central Ave., said the city's use of the Code Blue declaration has helped disperse the demand for shelter services throughout the city.
"It used to be we were near capacity on most cold nights," before Code Blue, said Buettner, whose mission regularly has beds available on even the coldest nights. "It's good because there's not as many people out there without the shelter they need."
In 2011, Baltimore officials estimated that there were more than 4,000 homeless adults and children in the city. Barry Corbitt, Baltimore-area commander for the Salvation Army, said the shelter he oversees at 1114 N. Calvert St. is already at capacity, but volunteers will be distributing extra hot food and blankets around the city.
More information on extended hours at emergency shelters can be found at http://www.baltimorehealth.org.
For Friday, the National Weather Service is calling for snow and/or sleet in the afternoon and early evening hours, with a chance of snow in the morning, as well.
The system, known as a clipper, is expected to move quickly through the region, localizing precipitation amounts, according to weather service forecasters. With temperatures remaining well below normal through the weekend, the air is expected to support snowfall, at least at first.
Making the system unpredictable is a flow of warmer air from the south expected to move in above the cold air, which is closer to the ground. When that happens, we get sleet, as snow falling from the clouds melts and then quickly refreezes before nearing the ground.
For now, most forecasters agree that significant snowfall is unlikely. AccuWeather.com's Henry Margusity expects a wintry mix south of the Mason-Dixon Line, with 3 to 6 inches of snow up to the Pennsylvania-New York border and into southern New England. Frederick-based Free State Weather blog meteorologist Rick Grow expects accumulating snow to come a little farther south, into northern Baltimore and Carroll counties and points northwest, with a sleet-and-snow mix turning to rain along the Interstate 95 corridor.
Three days out, there is plenty of room for the forecast to change. Snow failed to materialize Friday as some predicted, demonstrating the challenges of conflicting forecast models and unpredictable and narrow storm tracks.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun