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Storm brings snow, sleet but lower accumulation than predicted in Harford

What fell from the sky was far less than everyone planned for

Harford County appeared to have been spared the worst of a late winter storm, receiving less than six inches of mostly wet snow overnight Monday into Tuesday morning.

With temperatures hovering around freezing when precipitation began falling in the late evening, accumulations were held down, as the snow began as freezing rain and sleet before turning over to all snow and then back to sleet around daybreak.

Harford County Public Schools closed for the day Tuesday after canceling after-school activities Monday in anticipation of the area receiving 6 to 10 inches of snow as forecasters were predicting. Tuesday was the first day this winter that classes haven't been held because of weather conditions.

Roads were slick and slippery, as sleet and freezing rain were still falling at mid-morning.

Harford County government offices were closed Tuesday, and a Harford County Council public hearing and legislative session scheduled for Tuesday evening were canceled, according to the county government website.

County Executive Barry Glassman toured the southern and central portions of the county with Emergency Manager Rick Ayers.

"We're getting a lot of freezing rain and sleet," Glassman said in a phone interview from the road around 9:15 a.m. "I would say the roads are still real slick."

The Fallston area in western Harford had about 3 inches of crusty snow and freezing rain was still falling shortly before 10 a.m. The temperature was 32 degrees, the wind was gusting and trees had a thin coating of ice.

Conditions were similar in downtown Bel Air, where sidewalks were covered with the frozen snow and people could be seen shoveling around their houses, as light sleet fell and temperatures hovered around 30 degrees.

North Hickory Avenue was plowed but still had a layer of frozen slush. Plows were out and about early elsewhere in the downtown area. Around 8 a.m. a person driving a sports car along Hickory was skidding and trying to find traction on the slippery roadway.

Glassman, who had been touring Abingdon and Churchville before heading to the northern part of the county, said he had seen ice on trees and power lines, plus a tree down in Abingdon.

He said BGE reported about 2,000 power outages in Harford since the storm began.

BGE's online outage map showed sporadic outages clustered around the I-95 corridor, from Joppa to Havre de Grace, as of 9:40 a.m.

All 175 of the county's public works vehicles were out and about, and county officials anticipated more salting of roads, on top of the pre-treating that had been done Monday, according to Glassman.

Glassman said there were a minimal number of fire and EMS calls overnight and Tuesday morning.

He said a Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company support vehicle had slid off the road while personnel assisted at an EMS call at Harford Road and Reckord Road, and a county DPW crew was dispatched to free the vehicle.

Sleet was still falling steadily in Bel Air as of late Tuesday morning.

"The sleet just seems to be continuing to fall," Glassman said.

The National Weather Service forecast for the remainder of Tuesday in Bel Air predicted there could be another two to four inches of accumulated sleet and snow, with precipitation ended by evening and overnight temperatures dropping to the low 20s. Winds could gust to the mid to upper teens.

Early forecasts for up to a foot of snow led to furious preparations on Monday, as many Harford County roads had been salted by early evening and plows stood ready. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm.

Ready and waiting

Harford County public works crews were began pre-treating roads after the Monday evening rush hour ended, according to Glassman, who had added Monday afternoon: "I'm still hoping for [more] rain than snow, but it doesn't look like we're going to dodge it completely."

He had been concerned the snow would be heavy, requiring "a lot of plowing" and encouraged people to park in their driveways or along the even-numbered sides of cul-de-sacs and roads to give plows enough room.

The county prepared for what Glassman said was an "enhanced" activation for the county's emergency operations center around 7 p.m. Monday, meaning law enforcement, fire and EMS, emergency services and public works personnel should be on hand.

Glassman said Tuesday that he planned to keep the EOC at an enhanced level until around 4 p.m.

The county, which used hardly any snow removal resources this winter prior to Monday, had about 20,000 tons of road salt on hand and about $1.6 million available out of $2.3 million budgeted to handle snow.

"We're in real good shape," Glassman said of the snow budget. "We're just going to have to get through, I would say, the next 24 hours."

This story will be updated.

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