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No flakes have fallen, but the frigid temperatures of the past couple of days and the potential for a major winter storm looming over the coming weekend have sent Harford County residents on a mad dash to stock up on food and equipment to clear snow.

"It's been significantly busy, and I think it's going to get busier as the week goes on," Alicia Kilgore, a cashier at Courtland Hearth & Hardware in Bel Air, said Tuesday afternoon.

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Kilgore, who is working her first winter at the North Bond Street store, and her co-workers kept busy helping customers with items such as snow shovels and space heaters.

She said customers also have been purchasing ice-melting materials and pellets for wood-fired stoves.

"There have been a lot of calls in, from people asking for stove parts and people asking about their stoves," Kilgore said.

A handful of snow blowers were lined up outside the store, but Kilgore said they have not been selling many so far.

"Snow blowers will probably go later in the week," she noted.

Harford residents, business operators and local government officials were watching the weather forecasts closely Tuesday.

Sue Gephardt, the human resources coordinator for the Klein's ShopRite supermarket on North Main Street in Bel Air, said she had been hearing weather predictions ranging from 1 foot of snow to rain.

Regardless, store managers had ordered extra milk and bread, and "we've already started scheduling extra [employees], so we're ready," Gephardt said.

Multiple weather forecasting outlets, such as the National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com and the online Foot's Forecast, are calling for a storm that, if it hits the I-95 corridor between New York and Washington, D.C., Friday and Saturday, would rival past historic blizzards that hit the region in 1996 and 2010, The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday.

The storm, however, was over the West Coast Tuesday and it could shift north or south by the time it reaches the Eastern Seaboard, according to The Sun, which cited the various weather forecasters.

Municipal and county officials in Harford also noted the storm's track is difficult to predict, but Tuesday they were preparing for the worst by attaching snow plows to public works vehicles, checking road salt levels, alerting staff and ensuring vehicles and equipment are working properly.

"It's going to be an interesting storm," Kyle Torster, public works director for the City of Aberdeen, said. "Coastal storms are really hard to predict."

He said the storm could either hit the area "really hard," or it could move out to sea.

"That's just the nature of living in this area, so we're going to be conservative at this point in time and take the appropriate precautions now," Torster said.

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Torster, and his counterpart in Havre de Grace, Public Works Director Tim Whittie, noted the snow plows will clear the main municipal streets and emergency routes first before reaching residential side streets.

"The main focus will be on the primary roads, and then we'll branch off into the subdivisions and get those roads cleared," Whittie said.

Torster noted workers could be clearing roads up to several days after the snow ends. He encouraged residents to avoid going out after the storm.

"We ask residents to be patient during this time frame and to take precautions," he said.

Cindy Mumby, spokesperson for the Harford County government, said the county's online Snow Plow Tracker will be available at www.harfordcountymd.gov – she noted the tracker is activated during "a major snow event," when at least 6 inches fall, and it won't be activated "until the snow is nearly finished."

Mumby urged residents to not park their vehicles along the street, as they impede snow plows, but if they must park on their streets, keep the vehicles on the side of the street fronted by even-numbered houses "until the opposite side is cleared."

"The bottom line is, the county workforce is preparing for what may be coming so that we can keep our citizens safe," Mumby said.

Gephardt, of ShopRite, said customers have been purchasing staples such as milk, bread and toilet paper, as well as snacks in case their children are off from school.

"They know the kids are going to be off, so they're here for the pizza and junk food," she said.

Gephardt said customers also have been purchasing salt and ice scrapers.

"Everyone wants the salt right now," she said. "They started last week, preparing for the frost and the ice."

Gephardt encouraged customers to call their local ShopRite before going out during the storm, as stores will be closed, if necessary, to ensure the safety of customers and employees.

Rob Seifert, a Fallston resident, purchased a snow shovel at Courtland Hardware Tuesday.

"If it comes or not, it's good to be prepared," he said of the snow.

Another Courtland customer, Bel Air resident Ann Carney, came in, not for snow equipment, but to get a plumbing component repaired.

"The minute they talk about snow, I go to the Internet and get a ticket to Florida," she said.

Visit www.theaegis.com for the latest on the forecast and coverage of the potential winter storm.

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