Forecasters watching chances for 'major winter storm' Thursday

Weather forecasting models are suggesting a snow-heavy system will track up the East Coast from the Carolinas late Wednesday through Thursday.

But forecasters aren't making specific accumulation predictions yet, other than to caution of the possibility of snowfall in the ballpark of 6 inches or more. Accumulations will depend on where the center of the storm tracks -- if it moves too far inland, warm air from the Chesapeake and Atlantic could be pulled in, making for more rain and sleet. But if it hugs the coast, snowfall would be heavy.

"THIS SCENARIO WOULD BRING SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF PRECIPITATION TO THE AREA...CAUSING THE POTENTIAL FOR A MAJOR WINTER STORM," National Weather Service meteorologists wrote in a forecast discussion. The weather service issued a winter storm watch Monday afternoon for all of Central Maryland, with 5 inches or more of snow possible from Wednesday evening through Thursday evening.

Which scenario is more likely will become clear over the next day or two. It's possible that significant snowfall is inevitable, though, with's Henry Margusity wondering, "Is it a 12- to 24-inch storm or 6- to 14-inch storm"?

Foot's Forecast meanwhile predicts strong chances of a nor'easter like track, when storms hug the coast as they move up from the southeast, often bringing heavy snow to the region. But it splits those chances between a more inland track, bringing more rain and mixed precipitation to Baltimore, or a route along the coast, bringing heavy snow.

"This is one of those storms where the path is hypercritical," said Keith Krichinsky, executive director of Foot's Forecast. "I don't know anyone who's good enough to predict that."

The start to the week will be cold and blustery, with temperatures not breaking the 30 degree mark, and wind gusting up to 21 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The overnight low is forecast to be 16 degrees in Baltimore, with Tuesday even colder than Monday.

Sunny but cold conditions are forecast for the first part of this week, before the coastal low pressure system arrives. Baltimore City health officials declared "code blue" conditions Monday through Wednesday, a designation that seeks to shelter homeless and vulnerable populations from the cold.

"It's a pretty chilly air mass we're going to have over top of us," National Weather Service meteorologist Carl Barnes said Sunday evening. "But we're not expecting any snow for the first part of the week."

Still, temperatures in the 20s means the Sunday night dusting won't necessarily melt and could cause tricky conditions Monday. Barnes reminded drivers to be careful on the roads and to check the forecast regularly. Harford, Garrett, Cecil and Carroll county schools were all on a two-hour delay Monday morning. Kent County schools were opening one hour late and Queen Anne's County schools were 90 minutes late.

Two inches of snow fell in Finksburg, with 1.5 inches in Cockeysville, 1.1 inches in Bel Air, 0.7 inches near Pimlico and 1 inch at Fort Meade, according to the National Weather Service.

The State Highway Administration had about 900 crews out as of Sunday night, clearing and salting numbered routes across the state. It would closely monitor any re-freezing that occured overnight, SHA spokeswoman Lora Rakowski said.

"We'd like to remind drivers to not become too complacent in their driving," Rakowski said. "And remember that ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze first."

In a snowy winter that has challenged some areas, such as New York City, Maryland's salt supplies are around 80 percent, she said.

"We're certainly well-equipped for whatever comes along this week," Rakowski said.

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