Snowstorm a possible taste of winter to come in Carroll County

Snowbirds can rejoice, and beach bums plan vacations to southern climes, as forecasters suggest Thursday’s fall snowstorm that dumped more than 5 inches on most of Carroll County may be a harbinger of what to expect this winter.

“We’re in a pattern now of every three days another storm comes through,” said Keith Krichinsky, executive director of Foot's Forecast, based in Hampstead. “We don’t see any major change to that.”


There are exceptions, he said, noting that temperatures are expected to climb back into the low- to mid-40s this weekend, “but as far the rest of the winter goes, all indications are this will be a very fun winter, lots of activity this winter with storms.”

The first snow of the season began early Thursday morning, causing the cancellation of classes for Carroll County Public Schools, McDaniel College and Carroll Community College. As snow fell steadily throughout the day, county government offices closed as did many municipalities and some businesses.

It also caused trouble for motorists. Jeff Castonguay, director of public works for Carroll County, said the original forecast had called for only around an inch of snow.

“Roads are deteriorating,” Castonguay said at mid-day, noting that salt was put on roadways in the morning and plowing began after noon.

By 5 p.m., Taneytown had received 7 inches of snow, Lineboro had 6.8 inches, Westminster and Manchester had 5.8 inches, Uhion Bridge had 5.5, the Mount Airy area 4.5 and Eldersburg had 4.3, according to the National Weather Service. More snow was expected after 10 p.m. and a winter storm warning was put in effect until 4 a.m. Friday.

It could be just the beginning.

While weather forecasts are never set in stone, Krichinsky said there are factors that forecasters can look at to get a sense of where seasonal whether is trending over a period of weeks or months.

In the case of winter weather, one such factor that is present this year is El Niño, a Pacific Ocean current that brings warmer air to the West Coast, Krichinsky said.

“Temperatures in the Pacific are warming up, which is why you will see warmer temps and drier over in California, as with the wildfires,” he said. “The jet stream carries the warmer temperatures into the western U.S. and they go up into Canada where they cool down and they come back down the East Coast.”

Climate models will also look at local ocean temperatures, polar air currents and even sunspots — solar activity has been particularly low in 2018, according to Krichinsky.

“We also look at the snow pack in, believe it or not, Siberia,” he said. “The more snow they get there the colder it’s going to be here.”

Other patterns that can come and go throughout a winter season are high pressure systems over Greenland, according to Krichinsky, which can prevent cold air on the East Coast from being pushed out when warm, wet air moves in with winter storm fronts.

“The cold air will be in place, and that’s how we get the Nor’easters,” he said. “Right now there is a blocking high that is keeping the cold air here, which is why it’s not warming up as quickly as we had first anticipated.”

Krichinsky said based on current patterns, he expects a wet couple of weeks followed by some warming, and then more wintry weather by the middle of December.


“I don’t think it’s an indicator the season will be unusually cold in and of itself, but the other indicators are pointing to an active season,” he said. “More of the storms everybody hates, the ones where it’s a real tough call for central Maryland.”

That’s because storms like Thursday’s can vary dramatically depending on where the freezing line sets up, whether it’s west of Interstate 95, or, like Thursday, far to the east most of the day.

Bottom line, Kirchinsky said, if you don’t have a snow shovel, “you should get one. And some de-icer for the windshield.”

Times reporter Emily Chappell contributed to this story.