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A blizzard (gasp) may be on its way


The last days of winter could bring Central Maryland its biggest snowstorm in a decade, with the first flakes falling tonight and continuing into Sunday, weather forecasters warned yesterday.

How bad might it be?

The customarily cautious Fred Davis, the area's chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service, does not use the word "blizzard" lightly -- but yesterday he went so far as to say that blizzard conditions are a possibility.

In the Baltimore area, a blizzard -- defined as 35 mph winds, with blowing snow reducing visibility to 500 feet or less -- hasn't happened since Feb. 11, 1983, when the area was paralyzed by a near-record 22 inches of snow.

Mr. Davis issued a "winter storm watch" for tonight, calling for heavy snow (4 inches or more) across most of Maryland, and a coastal flood watch for Atlantic resorts and the Chesapeake Bay -- particularly its Western Shore -- because of northeasterly winds that could reach 60 mph tomorrow.

Only the Lower Shore was excluded from the heavy snow alert, because of the likelihood that area would see mostly rain.

Forecasters saw similarities in the developing weather system to the storm that brought heavy snow and rain a week ago, but expected it to be stronger and last longer.

Baltimore's television weathermen all had similar views.

Bob Turk of WJZ-TV (Channel 13) said his worst-case scenario was for 12 to 18 inches, with the snow blowing and drifting, but that the storm most likely would bring 6 to 12 inches, changing to rain in the city tomorrow afternoon and back to snow at night.

L Norm Lewis of WMAR (Channel 2) called for at least 6 inches.

Tom Tasselmyer of WBAL (Channel 11) said heaviest accumulations could reach a foot, adding, "It's the strongest storm we've seen here in three or four years."

"I'm so sick of this I can scream," said Len Johnson of WBFF-TV (Channel 45), who is expecting at least 8 inches. "I can't wait for summer."

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