The winter's first significant snowstorm hit the Baltimore area and most of the state today, forcing schools to close in the city and many counties and causing dozens of accidents on slick roadways, including one fatal crash.
A 29-year-old Silver Spring man died at Prince George's General Hospital in Cheverly after his pickup truck rammed the rear of a commercial truck stopped on a shoulder of the Capitol Beltway near Md. 450 in Forestville, said State Police spokesman Chuck Jackson.
The man, whose identity was withheld pending notification of relatives, was pinned in the wreckage for about a half-hour after the 6 a.m. accident, Mr. Jackson said.
Police believe the snow contributed to the accident, but there may have been other factors, he said.
Other accidents were reported on Interstate 95 and Md. 32 and several fender-benders on Washington Boulevard in Howard County; Md. 97 and I-95; Md. 140 at Tollgate Road in Owings Mills and Northern Parkway near Hillen Road in the city.
Fred Davis, chief meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said an accumulation of 3 to 5 inches of snow was expected in the metropolitan area and as much as 8 inches of new snow in the higher elevations of Western Maryland.
By midday, about 2 inches of snow had fallen in the city and surrounding counties.
The snow was expected to turn to freezing rain this afternoon and continue through the evening. The sleet could cause problems during the evening rush hour, Mr. Davis said.
"One thing that could work in our favor will be the sleet falling on snow rather than bare road surfaces or pavement," he said.
While officials warned drivers to exercise caution on the roads, any evidence of today's storm should disappear by tomorrow.
The National Weather Service said it will be sunny with temperatures in the upper 40s tomorrow. And the weekend will be rainy but with temperatures in the 50s.
Today, though, Maryland's small army of State Highway Administration workers were busy salting and plowing.
Hal Kassoff, the agency's administrator, said 1,647 men and women were operating 970 pieces of equipment to clear the roadways.
"We've been staying ahead of things because we prepared the night before," Mr. Kassoff said.
Preparation was also on the minds of many residents who -- carrying out what seems like a peculiar Baltimore tradition -- flocked to area supermarkets.
"It was the normal panic," said Mary Cain, who works at the Giant store in the 7900 block of Crain Highway in Glen Burnie.
"One woman bought six gallons of milk," she said. "And the toilet paper, that amazes me. What do they think will happen?"
John Gaitley, assistant manager of a Super Fresh Market in Arbutus, said customers "just panic."
"They came in last night and bought milk, bread, frozen food," Mr. Gaitley said. "They think they won't get out of their houses."
At Santoni's food market in Perry Hall, business last night was up 20 percent over the previous Wednesday. "It was the typical snow business," said Tom Grau, the manager. "They bought eggs, toilet paper."
In Baltimore, the Department of Transit and Traffic placed its snow emergency plan into effect at 6 a.m.
Vanessa Pyatt, a department spokeswoman, said more than 120 trucks were out on the major city streets, salting and plowing in expectation of a hazardous evening rush hour.
"By 7:30 a.m., we had all 83 primary routes salted and plowed twice," Ms. Pyatt said. The secondary roads in the city were to be worked after the snow stopped, she said.
Public schools were ordered closed in the city and in Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George's, Queen Anne's, St. Mary's, Talbot and Washington counties.
The weather also forced cancellation of classes at the University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Towson State University, Morgan State University, Villa Julie College and Coppin State College.
The stewards and track management at Laurel Race Course canceled today's nine-race card because of the weather.
An official at Baltimore-Washington International Airport said incoming and outgoing flights were "fairly close to schedule" but advised travelers to contact their air carriers for more detailed information.
In the city, police officers driving patrol cars were ordered to takefixed positions to cut down on driving in hazardous conditions unless they had to respond to emergencies.
Snow began falling in Western Maryland shortly before 3 a.m. and about an hour later moved into metropolitan Baltimore.
Beginning at 4 a.m., snow emergency plans went into effect in Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Montgomery, Harford and Howard counties.