Several inches of snow fell across the Baltimore area, with as much as 5-7 inches in some spots, and ice was still ahead as a winter storm that has traveled across the country packed more of a punch in Maryland than forecasters expected.
While a maximum of about 3 inches had been expected, 6 inches or more were measured across parts of Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties with several inches still to the south. The snow was quickly covering roadways, prompting highway crews to urge motorists to stay home as they fight to keep up with the pace of the snowfall. Traffic disruptions were widespread from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and across the Baltimore region.
Heavier-than-expected bands of intense snowfall were to blame, said Keith Krichinsky, chief operating officer of the weather news site FootsForecast.org.
"It set up earlier and lasted longer than expected," Krichinsky said. "These bands don't show up on models."
A winter storm warning is in effect west of Interstate 95, in northern Baltimore County and Howard, Carroll and Harford counties from Sunday morning through Monday morning. Along the I-95 corridor and to the east in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County, a winter weather advisory was in effect.
Temperatures were remaining in the 20s around the region as of midday, colder than some forecasters had expected, helping to contribute to quick snow accumulations.
Snow piled up quickly after starting in the mid- to late morning hours. By 1 p.m., totals reached 6 inches in Cockeysville, 7 inches in Manchester, and 5 inches in Randallstown, according to the weather service.
The State Highway Administration via Twitter urged people to delay travel, as snowfall at rates of 1-2 inches per hour made it difficult to clear pavement.
Slow traffic was reported around Interstate 695, including multiple disabled vehicles reported to be slowing traffic around the interchange with Interstate 795 near Pikesville. Disabled vehicles were also reported on Interstate 70.
Northern Parkway was closed between Greenspring and Cylburn avenues in north Baltimore because of icy conditions, the city transportation department said via Twitter shortly before 2:30 p.m.
Cancellations meanwhile started to surface by mid-morning. The Mayor's Christmas Parade in Hampden was canceled adn would not be rescheduled, said Kevin Harris, a spokesman for the mayor's office.
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore sent out a message about 11:30 a.m. that it would close for the rest of the day because of the snow.
By early afternoon, businesses began to react. Lynne Brick’s Belvedere Square fitness center announced it would close at 1:30 p.m. Gertrude’s restaurant in Charles Village sent out a Twitter message saying it would close for dinner.
Towson University closed its campus at 3 p.m., but made no decision on whether to open as usual Monday morning.
The precipitation was expected to change over to freezing rain and sleet eventually on Sunday, potentially continuing into early Monday morning. Little accumulation was expected along the I-95 corridor but as much as a quarter of an inch could accumulate north and west of the city.
Weather service meteorologists said they would be looking closer at observations of the weather system once it passes to examine what made the heavy snowfall such a surprise.
"We’re going to have to do an event analysis afterward and see what we come up with," Barnes said. "It should be getting pretty close to topping out as far as snow totals."
Meteorologists predicted rain Monday, with the temperature peaking in the low 40s. According to the forecast, the rain could turn into snow again Monday night and Tuesday. No heavy accumulation was predicted for Baltimore, but strong gusts were expected in Western Maryland.
The Maryland Transit Administration said it was taking steps Sunday to prepare for the storm. Among other things, the MTA said it would back up its bus, light rail and subway services with additional operators and patrol its service areas to monitor road and track conditions.
The MTA said it would also deploy dump trucks and salt trucks with plows to keep the light rail and Metro tracks free of snow and keep tree-trimming crews on call. The agency said it will use conventional buses on the streets today rather than the elongated “articulated” buses because of the possibility of snow. The MTA’s transit information center will open at 5 a.m. – an hour earlier than usual.
MTA spokeswoman Paulette Austrich said minor delays due to slippery conditions were possible Sunday on the weekend MARC service that made its debut Saturday. Austrich said the first three trains Sunday were on time but that ridership was expected to be low because of weather.
The same storm brought ice and snow from Texas to Ohio on Friday and Saturday. Four deaths have already been attributed to the storm as it froze most of the south central U.S. At least 200,000 people across the country lost power, and thousands of flights were grounded.
Meanwhile, bone-chilling cold swept through the north central U.S., and the temperature Friday morning in Great Falls, Mont. was 26 degrees below zero — colder than the South Pole in Antarctica, according to the National Weather Service.
High temperatures in central Maryland are expected to be near freezing, with lows around 20 degrees, through the rest of the week.