Central Maryland's predicted 4 inches of snow gave way yesterday to little more than a dusting mixed in with sleet and rain -- and today could bring a repeat performance.
The forecast yesterday appeared to be coming true at least twice, as heavy flakes fell in the early afternoon and again at the start of the evening rush hour. But each time, the snow fizzled, turning into flurries, rain or wet snow and sleet before hitting streets too warm to freeze.
What was expected to be one of the final blasts of a soon-to-be-departed winter barely made it past Western Maryland, where the heaviest snow was estimated at 2 to 3 inches in parts of Garrett County.
Amet Figueroa, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said most of Maryland was spared heavier snow because the predicted collision of the triggering weather system approaching from the west and moisture from the southwest occurred farther to the northeast than expected. "For that reason," Mr. Figueroa said, "the areas to the north of us -- Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York -- will be getting the snow we anticipated getting." But a secondary storm system developing off the Virginia-North Carolina coast early today posed another threat.
Mr. Figueroa said Baltimore likely will be close to the zone where rain becomes snow today -- with a chance of an inch or two of snow, and up to 4 inches to the north.
"When we get storms off of the coast is usually when we get the heavy snow, but you don't want to cry wolf until there's something more definite," he said.
The only noticeable accumulations yesterday were in Garrett County, in Allegany County around Cumberland and northeast Carroll County. Elsewhere, generally there was less than an inch.
The weather had little effect on traffic, and no major accidents were blamed on the snow.
Residents throughout the metropolitan area apparently were skeptical of the initial snow forecasts, resisting the snowy weather routine of stocking up on bread and milk.
"I don't think they believed the weatherman," said Dawn Hastings, a cashier at a High's store on Belle Grove Road in Brooklyn Park. "Usually, if it calls for bad weather I would sell out of milk and bread, but not this time."
The snow's near-miss proved disappointing to Susana Lopez, a Phoenix, Ariz., resident visiting her in-laws in Randallstown.
Mrs. Lopez has never touched snow and had been looking forward to the experience.
"They were saying 3 to 6 inches, and my mother-in-law went out and bought us some extra baby food and diapers, thinking we'd be snowed in," she said. "I got caught up in it too, but when I woke up and looked out the window, all I saw was green."