Winter-weary school officials endured another early wake-up call yesterday, as a storm began dumping snow across much of Maryland at the worst possible time -- a few hours before buses and students would head onto the roads.
For most systems in Central and Western Maryland, the snow won -- and school calendars took another blow.
Rising temperatures turned the precipitation to rain by mid-morning in many areas, but not before officials had decided to close schools in Carroll, Harford, Howard and Baltimore counties, and in all of Western Maryland.
In some cases, officials announced delayed openings and then decided to close for the day -- just as the snow was yielding to rain.
Up to six inches of snow fell in Western Maryland, with lesser amounts eastward across the state. The state fared better than much of the nation's Northeast, where heavy, blowing snow closed airports, snarled traffic and knocked out power.
The daylong soaking and speedy meltdown of snow in Maryland raised concerns about flooding in low-lying areas. The National Weather Service issued a flood watch that excluded only extreme Southern Maryland and the Lower Shore, and a warning for Point of Rocks in Frederick County, where the Potomac River was expected to crest at 3 to 4 feet above flood stage this morning.
Route 30 in Carroll County was closed for more than seven hours yesterday after a car skidded off the icy road and struck a utility pole, dropping electric wires close to traffic. In another weather-related crash, two men were injured, one critically, in a two-vehicle accident on Route 27 between Mount Airy and Taylorsville about 7:30 a.m.
In Baltimore, schools opened on time but closed early -- not for the weather, but for scheduled professional programs for educators. Anne Arundel schools opened two hours late because of icy roads in the north county.
For other school systems in the area, however, there was the painful decision to close -- in Harford, for a record 13th day this season. County spokesman Donald R. Morrison said plans are still being made for making up the lost time and meeting Maryland's 180-day requirement for public schools.
Yesterday was the 10th bad-weather closing for Baltimore County schools, the ninth for Howard County and the seventh for Carroll. All face changing scheduled holidays and extending classes later into June.
Although the snow caused problems for school officials, public works departments could sigh with relief. Plows and the rain cleared the snow from most roads by late morning, and crews had less need of salt than in the ice storms that have depleted supplies this winter.
The weather forecast also contained good news: Snow that had been expected tomorrow likely will affect only western and extreme northern sections of Maryland -- and then only with flurries or light accumulations.
The weather was expected to become gradually cooler through the weekend, but not extremely cold, with temperatures Saturday and Sunday in the 20s and 30s.