With snow forecast Monday night into Tuesday, officials, residents and businesses in Baltimore County are preparing for what may be the first major snowfall in the waning days of winter.
Businesses are saying that the mid-March snow isn't unusual, but the warm weather which has preceded the storm is.
Between six and 12 inches of snow is expected to fall in Baltimore County, according to a National Weather Service forecast. That figure is "most likely" to fall, according to the service's website. In northern Baltimore County, snowfall is expected to reach 13 inches.
Baltimore County issued a media release Monday telling residents that they can track snow removal operations and road conditions using the county's website, www.baltimorecountymd.gov/stormfighter.
The county's full snow-removal crew, which includes 423 trucks and 491 workers based at 11 locations throughout the county, will report later today to monitor roads, according to Baltimore County Department of Public Works spokeswoman Lauren Watley. If and when it begins snowing, the workers will begin to treat the roads with salt and plow if necessary.
Baltimore County does not pre-treat county roads, Watley said, because they find it ineffective.
As of Monday at 1:45 p.m., all county government offices were open and operating on a normal schedule.
For Baltimore County Public Schools, evening high school is canceled and all other after school activities must end by 7 p.m., according to the school system's website.
In Catonsville, Just Landscaping owner Justin Polk's six snow plows were ready for service. Polk said it isn't unusual to need the snow plows in mid-March, adding that he always keeps his plows separated from trucks and ready to be added if needed.
Polk expects to remove snow for companies and businesses in the greater Catonsville area as flurries start to fall.
"Try to stay indoors as much as possible because it gives everybody like myself the room we need to operate," Polk said, talking snow removal.
Residents have also been preparing to remove snow themselves, as Vince Ayd of Ayd Hardware in Towson said the store has had a busy morning, with people coming in to purchase snow shovels, ice melt and snow sleds.
"People are looking forward to having fun in this snow, I believe," Ayd said.
Ayd said he put his ice melt inventory away for the season two weeks ago, and replaced it on the shelves with grass seed. Now he is bringing it back out again, something that is a relief to Ayd, as sales of winter-related supplies were down about 50 percent this year compared to last year, he said.
"This may be our one and only big one," Ayd said. "I'm grateful for it."
Winter-related sales started to pick up last Friday, he added.
Carrie Engel, who has worked at Valley View Farms Garden Center and Nursery in Cockeysville since 1972, said she isn't as worried about the coming snow as she is about the cold.
When there were unseasonably warm days in February and the start of the month, buds started appearing about two weeks early on some fruit trees and other plants.
Engel has been storing the plants in an unheated greenhouse or covering them with a felt blanket at night to prevent the cold from killing those early buds. The cold won't kill the plants, she said, but may kill some buds and the trees' ability to produce fruit.
The cold weather and snow aren't surprising for March, Engel said. What she didn't expect was the warm weather in February.
If residents have covered the plants in their garden ahead of the snow, they should reinforce that covering with a structure, such as a wire hoop, to ensure plants aren't crushed under the weight of the snow.
Last season, which included one of the largest storms in the region's history, Baltimore County spent $15.7 million on snowstorm-related expenditures, removing a total of 39 inches of snow during seven storms.
There have been six winter storms so far this year, all minor, according to the county's website. The county spent roughly $3 million on salt and labor for those storms.