A relatively weak system dusted the region with snow Friday afternoon, prompting schools, courts and libraries to close early and slowing the evening commute.
The anticipation of a treacherous afternoon rush hour had many starting their weekends early. Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard county schools all dismissed early. The Enoch Pratt Free Library closed all branches at 2:45 p.m.
The closings got rush-hour traffic started around 1:30 p.m., State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said. Traffic slowed to a crawl around Interstate 695 and on parts of I-83 and I-95, but crashes reported were minor, he said.
"By and large, it's been relatively incident-free," Buck said. "Any time it rains, much less snows, during rush hour there's traffic."
A trace of snow had been measured at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport by late afternoon, though snow was still falling. Early snowfall reports to the National Weather Service included an inch in Westminster, Oella and Druid Hill Park, and 1.3 inches near North Laurel.
Farther west, a winter storm warning was issued in Garrett and western Allegany counties, with 4 inches on the ground in Frostburg.
Before the snow arrived, Friday morning may have brought the lowest temperatures in two years in Baltimore. The overnight low was 11 degrees at BWI, the point of record for Baltimore. That is one degree lower than Wednesday's low and the coldest weather measured at the airport since Jan. 24, 2011, when a temperature of 8 degrees was recorded.
Residents were cautioned to be wary of frozen pavement on roadways and sidewalks. State highway officials planned to have crews at the ready overnight, with snowfall not expected to taper off in all parts of the state until possibly 10 p.m., Buck said.
Saturday could bring a fifth consecutive day of sub-freezing temperatures, at least in some areas. The weather service is forecasting a high of 32 degrees downtown and at BWI on Saturday. Baltimore hasn't seen five consecutive sub-freezing days since a six-day span in January 2004.
A brief warm-up is expected next week, with highs in the 50s Tuesday and Wednesday. But forecasters predict another cold snap to start in February.
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