Blizzard-like conditions are expected around Carroll Saturday as what could prove to be a historic snowstorm pounds the area.
The flakes began falling at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday in Westminster, the first wave of what could turn out to be a historic storm. About 2 1/2 feet of snow is predicted to blanket Carroll County by the time the snowstorm is projected to end Sunday morning.
National Weather Service's latest forecast says the Carroll area should get between 24 and 30 inches of snow. A blizzard warning issued Friday evening for Carroll, as well as Frederick County and portions of Baltimore and Harford counties, is scheduled to remain in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Official snowfall totals from the National Weather Service, showed that Winfield had almost 7 inches as of 2:30 a.m. Saturday and Lineboro had 6 inches at 2 a.m. Eldersburg had a report of a little more than 5 inches as of 11 p.m. Friday.
"When you get things to work in perfect harmony, you get big snowstorms," said Matt Elliott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service for Baltimore and Washington. "And that's what happened here."
The snow is expected to fall at about an inch per hour until the peak of the storm Friday night into Saturday afternoon. Snow will fall at up to 2 to 3 inches per hour between 3 a.m. and midday Saturday, he said.
With up to 30 inches of snow expected, the storm can be considered historic, Accuweather meteorologist Tom Kines said.
Because it is expected to be a dry snow accompanied by strong winds, plows might have to clear roads multiple times because of drifting snow. It also makes it harder to measure, Kines said.
The lighter snow doesn't tend to pull down power lines, like heavier, wet snow, but Kines said power outages should still be expected because of the high winds.
"There'll be a lot of wind, so it'll look like a blizzard out there," he said.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is preparing for the predicted outages, bringing in more than 900 additional workers to help restore power in the storm, according to a news release from the utility.
The company is urging customers to be prepared for extended power loss by having flashlights with fresh batteries, cellphones that are charged, nonperishable food and gallons of water.
McDaniel College, which canceled classes on Friday, will remain closed until Tuesday, pushing the first classes of the spring semester back by a day, according to Cheryl Knauer, director of media relations for the college. Other colleges throughout the state, such as Frostburg State University and Towson University, will also push the start of their spring semesters back, while Carroll Community College will be closed Saturday and Sunday after closing early on Friday, according to the college's website.
Carroll County, along with the rest of Maryland, is currently under a state of emergency, which Gov. Larry Hogan declared Thursday. It went into effect at noon Friday in order to make all of the state's resources available. As part of the state of emergency, vehicles cannot be parked on snow routes.
Carroll County's Emergency Operations Center also opened at noon and will stay open until the storm ends, said Deborah Lundahl, a spokeswoman for the county government.
"Roads crews are ready to start pretreating and plowing as conditions dictate," Lundahl said in an email. "Carroll County is ready to go. We ask that residents take the same care and precautions."
County officials are strongly urging people to stay off the roads to allow crews to continue plow and salt operations Saturday, Lundahl said, and crews will be on hand to assist emergency vehicles should the need arise. Anyone experiencing an emergency should call 911, she said, but additional information about the storm and conditions is available by calling the Carroll County Emergency Operations Center at 888-543-8362.
The possibility of power outages, which could lead to some county residents losing heat, is also being monitored at the operations center, according to Lundahl.
"At this point, we don't have any plans to open a special shelter, but the operations center is open, so we have reps from Citizen Services and the Red Cross there to make that call if the need should arise for a shelter," she said.
As of 6:30 p.m. Friday, there had not been an increase of accident reports, according to an officer with the Maryland State Police's Westminster Barrack. A spokesman for the Carroll County Sheriff's Office said he was aware of only a few minor accidents — nothing unusual — and most people seem to have gotten the message to get off and stay off the roads.
That appeared to be the story all across Maryland's highways Friday evening, according to Valerie Burnette Edgar, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.
"The good news is, a lot of people did heed the warnings and they have gotten to their destination; we are not seeing a lot of traffic," she said. "We're actually in pretty good shape, though I am a little worried about tomorrow, that people will get cabin fever. … Stay home; go out and play in the snow, but don't drive in the snow."
SHA road crews will work through the night to keep at least one passable lane open on main roads for emergency vehicles, Edgar said, but as long as the snow is falling, it's mostly a matter of keeping up. The real effort to get the roads clear won't begin until the snow stops, and if the snowfall totals are as predicted, Edgar said, motorists should expect to deal with snow on some routes as late as Monday morning.
"The goal would be to get it as clear as humanly possible by Monday morning, but it's not going to be all clear all across from shoulder to shoulder," she said. " Off Md. 91, Deer Park Road? That's a state route, but that will probably have one lane passable Monday morning — we will see. Based on what they are predicting, if we get upward of three feet in Carroll County, that's a lot of snow, and we don't have much room to push it."
The storm is expected to taper off Saturday night, and the snow will be good for sledding on Sunday, said Kines, the Accuweather meteorologist. As the snow sits on the ground, it will become wetter, making it better for snowball fights.
"So Sunday will be a good day to dig out, so to speak," Kines said.