A long overdue blast of winter weather bore down on Maryland today, bringing wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, thunderstorms, falling temperatures and snow late today to Western Maryland.
The National Weather Service said 3 to 6 inches of snow was possible in the extreme western portions of the state late today, after a cold front sweeps through and drops temperatures out of the 50s and into the teens tonight.
For Central Maryland, the clash of cold, arctic air from the west and warm tropical air to the east brought downpours and thunderstorms today, with winds increasing as the colder air approached.
Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued at midmorning for Howard and Carroll counties, and watches were issued for 12 other Maryland counties, including the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Forecasters at Baltimore-Washington International Airport said a line of heavy thunderstorms was racing northeast across northern Virginia, the West Virginia panhandle and Central Maryland at 50 mph, felling trees, knocking out power lines and pelting some areas with pea-sized hail.
Damaging wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph were reported during the storms, with a 61 mph gust reported at Westminster.
State Police in Westminster reported downed power lines, minor traffic accidents, roof damage, and many activated burglar alarms as the front passed through.
The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported 4,100 customers without power as the storms moved in.
Tornado watches were issued for Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot, Wicomico, Worcester and Cecil counties.
Gusts of up to 87 mph were reported in Lebanon County, Pa., from a related thunderstorm. A "probable" tornado was spotted in York and Lancaster counties.
By tonight, lows will have reached the upper 20s, with gusty northwest winds diminishing to 10 to 20 mph.
The arctic wake-up call is long overdue. The overnight lows at Baltimore-Washington International Airport have reached the teens only twice this winter, on Dec. 19 (16 degrees) and Dec. 20 (14 degrees).
Last night's lows stuck in the balmy 50s in the Baltimore area, adding a dense fog to the light rain that slowed travel early today in many areas.
The wintry weather will move in behind a cold front packing strong northwest winds.
High-wind warnings and a snow advisory were posted for extreme Western Maryland. High temperatures there tomorrow will stick in the 20s.