Forecasts didn't see this coming

In the end, the forecast for Saturday's snowstorm proved to be as slippery as the roads.

Many Marylanders, expecting a light dusting, were surprised by several inches of snow, which snarled traffic and caused people to scrap their weekend plans.

The snow started in the late morning, but by mid-afternoon, the weather system had dropped four inches in Baltimore and more in Salisbury and Ocean City, according to the National Weather Service. Though BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport remained open with few delays and cancellations, traffic on Interstate 95 and other major roads slowed to a crawl in some areas.

"We didn't expect the amount, accumulation and intensity of the snow that came through," Lora Rakowski, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, said Saturday afternoon. "We had already planned for all our folks to be deployed, but we did need to bring in more forces as the morning and afternoon progressed."

The SHA, which had expected only a dusting, ended up dispatching 1,600 trucks to plow and salt state roads when the storm hit, Rakowski said.

Spinouts and fender-benders dotted the highways, and in many cases, cars crawled along at 15 mph. to 30 mph. Several injuries resulted from the crashes, but none were life-threatening, according to Sgt. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

By late afternoon, AAA had received about 1,600 in-state service calls, most from vehicles stuck in the snow, said spokeswoman Ragina Averella. "It's much higher than a normal Saturday," she said.

Starting last Tuesday, forecasts for this weekend had the storm dropping as much as a foot of snow in the region. Later in the week, meteorologists thought the storm would travel through Southern Maryland, barely brushing Baltimore.

"A couple days ago, we did not have as much snow in the forecast," said Brian Lasorsa, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. "The storm track tweaked up north just a little bit. ... That's why you've got several inches of snow."

In Annapolis, Mayor Joshua J. Cohen declared a snow emergency, ordering vehicles parked on emergency snow routes to be moved.

The capital was also dealing with an influx of visitors, as Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser participants poured into Navy-Marine Corps Stadium to take shuttles to the bay site. Though the city was putting down salt to get ahead of the storm, the influx of plunge participants "brought everything down to a crawl around the stadium," said Phill McGowan, Annapolis spokesman.

Annapolis officials initially anticipated only an inch of snow but were surprised Saturday to learn that as much as eight inches could accumulate by Sunday morning, McGowan said. "Eight times as much snow as you were expecting, in 12 hours, is kind of an eye-opener," he said.

In Baltimore, Greg Kendig couldn't have been less prepared for snow. In the final leg of his trip from Tennessee to see friends in Baltimore where he used to live, he practically slid in his rental car - or sled as he's now calling it - all the way from Annapolis to Butchers Hill.

"Other cars were spinning around all around us," he said of the rather harrowing ride. "We were OK in this trusty sled."

Baltimore Sun reporters Frank Roylance and Jill Rosen contributed to this article.

The ever-changing forecast
Jan. 26: predicts 6 to 12 inches of snow for Friday and Saturday

Jan. 27:

Forecasters say the storm is shifting south, and could possibly miss Baltimore and head out to sea

Jan. 29:

Meteorologists say the worst of the storm will stay south of the city

Jan. 30:

The storm deposits several inches of snow in the region, surprising Baltimoreans

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