The 5 to 8 inches of snow forecast for Carroll County starting Wednesday morning is likely to turn to sleet and ice before yielding to rain Wednesday evening, forecasters say.
Regardless of how much of each precipitation — snow, ice, sleet and rain — falls, conditions are expected to cause hazardous travel conditions, said Andrew Snyder, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Snow should begin to fall sometime after 4 a.m. Wednesday with temperatures in the mid-20s, and could be moderate to heavy throughout the morning, Snyder said. Snow should change to sleet and freezing rain Wednesday afternoon, he added.
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration said crews are have pretreated roads with salt are readying equipment and supplies to begin plowing early Wednesday morning, according to a news release from the agency.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan urged citizens to “use good judgement and avoid travel if possible” on Wednesday, according to the release.
“The rate of snowfall will be double the rate of the ability of the plows to clear, which will result in snow-covered roadways,” the highway administration detailed in a news release.
Snyder said models show approximately 5 to 7 inches of snow for Carroll County.
Keith Krichinsky, executive director of Foot’s Forecast, said he has a feeling this storm could over-perform, and that the models could be underestimating snowfall. Officially, he said, 6 to 8 inches are expected.
The storm, which is coming toward Maryland from the Tennessee Valley area, is rich with moisture, he said. “Because there’s so much moisture coming up from the Gulf Coast, it’s going to be a heavy snow.”
As precipitation transitions to freezing rain and sleet Wednesday afternoon, as much as one-quarter of an inch of ice could accumulate, Krichinsky said.
“As the storm transitions from snow to sleet and rain, there is a significant chance for icy conditions along the I-95 corridor and in the north and west portions of the State,” the highway administration warned.
The agency advises that motorists who must travel Wednesday plan for extra travel time and clean their vehicles completely before hitting the road. Motorists should never pass snow plows, the release further details.
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 20s to around 30 degrees while snow falls during the day Wednesday, before rising to about 34 degrees late Wednesday evening, Snyder said.
Krichinsky said he expects most precipitation to clear out by midnight.
“The whole storm is going to last about 12 to 18 hours with the rain,” he added.
Snyder added any lingering precipitation should be gone by sunrise Thursday. By the time precipitation ends Thursday, temperatures should have climbed to the low to mid-40s.
However, the snowpack could keep the ground temperatures below freezing, so later in the evening — around rush hour — rain could freeze upon contact with the ground, Krichinsky said.
“If temperatures stay around 30, 32 degrees everything is going to stay a sheet of ice.”
If the one-quarter inch of ice estimate is correct, it could “paralyze the whole county until it melts,” Krichinsky said.
After the storm clears out, Thursday and Friday will provide seasonal temperatures — upper 30s to around 40 — and partly sunny skies, Krichinsky said.
Temperatures should remain seasonal through the weekend, but there will be rain, Krichinsky said. The forecast that was looking like relentless rain Saturday and Sunday now shows signs of dry spells, he said.
NOTE: Due to the expected inclement weather expected tomorrow, Human Services Programs (HSP) of Carroll County, Inc. will extend the hours of the Cold Weather Shelter at 127 Stoner Avenue, Westminster beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday and going through 10 a.m. Thursday. The Cold Weather Shelter will return to its regular, daily operating hours of 7 p.m. until 8 a.m. beginning on Thursday evening.