Temperatures are expected to get into the high 30s Tuesday and the 50s later in the week, according to the National Weather Service website, granting relief to residents who have lived with frigid temperatures, then freezing rain and treacherous roads in the last days.
But on Monday, after a freezing rain that fell steadily throughout the afternoon and into the evening, roads and sidewalks in Harford County became a slippery mess.
As a result, Harford County Public Schools were closed Tuesday, the school system announced at 7 a.m. that day. Code Blue employees reported at 11 a.m.
Residents were encouraged to stay off the roads if possible Monday, as conditions continually worsened that night, Harford County government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.
As the evening went on, reports of accidents increased, as did falls on the ice. Secondary roads and sidewalks were still dangerously slippery Tuesday morning.
First-responders handled 18 vehicle accidents and a handful of falls on the ice as of 10 p.m., according to Mumby.
Because of the hazardous driving conditions, county offices did not open until 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to Mumby, who said critical employees would report in accordance with policies established within their divisions.
Schools closed three hours early Monday, and all afternoon and evening activities, including a Board of Education meeting and public input session on the school system’s fiscal 2019 budget, were canceled, according to the HCPS Facebook page.
School officials originally intended to open two hours late Tuesday morning, but with temperatures hovering at or just below freezing, the decision was made to cancel classes for the day.
County Executive Barry Glassman granted liberal leave for county employees, meaning they could take off early Monday afternoon using accrued annual or personal leave, Mumby said.
The early school closings and liberal leave meant light traffic during the normal evening rush; however, as the rain continued to fall and ice formed, driving and walking both became more difficult.
The State Highway Administration and County Highways Division treated major and secondary roads with salt, which helped in the early going.
Many sections of sidewalk along Hickory Avenue and Main Street in Bel Air were covered in a thin sheet of ice, rendering them treacherous to walkers, including an Aegis reporter who ventured out. The wet streets became a safer option for walking at some points.
Several downtown Bel Air bars and restaurants were open, despite the weather. Richard Russell, a Sean Bolan’s Irish Pub patron, said he walked from his residence on nearby Thomas Street, but he stayed on the grass and the street.
“The concrete’s really icy,” Russell said of the sidewalks.
Mumby said county highways crews treated local roads starting at noon Monday, plus Glassman asked staff to notify the State Highway Administration to treat Route 136 and other state-maintained roads in northern Harford after a crash on Route 136 earlier in the day.
“Temperatures are below freezing so we urge drivers to slow down and watch for black ice, particularly on the secondary roads,” Mumby wrote.
Before the ice came, Monday had been the first time since Dec. 30 that the temperature in the Baltimore region rose above 32 degrees, the eight days of sub-freezing temperatures being the longest such period in 28 years according to The Baltimore Sun.
The forecast for the remainder of the week is calling for temperatures rising as high as the 50s.