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Harford prepares for winter blast; schools out Wednesday

Truck driver Robert Hull waits while loader operator Dennis Remines loads his dump truck with salt at the Harford County Highways facility in Hickory Tuesday morning.
Truck driver Robert Hull waits while loader operator Dennis Remines loads his dump truck with salt at the Harford County Highways facility in Hickory Tuesday morning. (Matt Button / The Aegis)

The warnings began early in the week: Wednesday snow storm has potential to be the biggest one so far this winter.

Harford County schools have canceled Wednesday’s classes. It will be the sixth inclement weather day this school year, and the last day will now be Monday, June 17.

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Heeding the forecasts of snow Wednesday morning and ice in the afternoon, Harford County began pre-treating major county roads with brine on Tuesday, according to Cindy Mumby, a spokesperson for Harford County government.

“We have to prepare for the worst. And we hope for the best. We hope it has a minimal impact,” Mumby said. “It is our job to be prepared when we get this information from forecasters. How could we do otherwise?”

State highways crews were doing the same thing, a Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman said. And Gov. Larry Hogan was already telling people to stay off the roads if possible.

“Extremely heavy snow is expected to impact much of the state tomorrow, and we urge Marylanders to start preparing now,” Hogan said in a news release. “Our crews will be treating the roads around the clock, but it is critical for our citizens to use good judgment and avoid travel if possible."

Harford County schools will have there sixth inclement weather day this school year on Wednesday, and the last day will now be Monday, June 17.

As of 3:30 p.m., about 4 to 6 inches of snow was forecast for Harford County, beginning between 7 and 9 a.m., Mumby said. Depending on the temperature, the snow will switch from snow to sleet to rain.

“If it stays colder longer, there could be more snow,” she said.

Even while the sun was still shining Tuesday, other events were being canceled — Southampton Middle School postponed its students versus faculty basketball game, to reward the winners of its Harford Family House fundraiser, to Feb. 27

Leaders across the state and county were urging residents to be careful on Wednesday.

“Here we go again … more snow and ice is in the forecast for tomorrow. Please limit your travel and if you must hit the roads, clear your car of snow and ice and watch out for snow plows,” the Harford County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Tuesday morning.

A winter storm warning has been issued from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday when “snow will overspread the area early Wednesday morning and mix with and change to sleet and freezing rain during the early afternoon hours Wednesday,” according to the National Weather Service.

A county crew with a load of anti-icing brine treats a section of road along Cooptown Road in Forest Hill Tuesday morning.
A county crew with a load of anti-icing brine treats a section of road along Cooptown Road in Forest Hill Tuesday morning. (Matt Button / The Aegis)

The crews that spent Tuesday pre-treating with brine will be called back to work at 4 a.m. Wednesday to treat the remaining county roads with salt, Mumby said.

By 7 a.m., the full contingent of the county’s snow removal staff of 130 people is expected to be out on the roads either salting or plowing, depending what the weather brings, she said.

“We have been posting on social media the usual reminders about safety in the snow and cold weather,” Mumby said.

She urged county residents, if they have to park on the street, to park on the even-numbered side — the winter of 2018-2019 started in an even year.

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“But if you can, park in a driveway and off the street. It makes a big difference for our plow drivers to clear off the street,” Mumby said. “We appreciate the patience of folks as we clear the roads, as we work to get every road.”

Harford County maintains 1,000 miles of road and more than 1,200 cul de sacs, she said.

Once cleanup begins, she urged residents to be careful while shoveling.

“It can be quite an exertion, the snow can be heavy,” she said.

In case of a medical emergency, she suggested someone in the home try to shovel the driveway, or at least a path to make entry into a home easier for first responders. If residents know a neighbor might be medically fragile, she suggested checking in on them and making sure a path is cleared to get in that home in case they need emergency medical care.

The forecast

Snow may not start falling until as late as 9 a.m. in Harford County and between 1 and 3 p.m. a relatively warm layer of air is expected to creep in overhead, with temperatures still at or below freezing close to the ground. That means sleet could start mixing in with the snow in the early afternoon hours.

As much as 3-4 inches of snow is forecast across the region, according to the National Weather Service, but as icy precipitation starts to mix in, snow accumulation will start slowing.

Between 6 and 8 p.m., meteorologists expect precipitation to transition to freezing rain, and then what they call plain rain, as the air over the region continues to warm. Temperatures are forecast to rise above freezing after sunset, and into the mid-30s overnight.

Precipitation is forecast to taper off as a cold rain between 3 and 5 a.m. Thursday, with skies forecast to gradually clear, and temperatures rising into the 40s during the day.

Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.

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