Maryland snow: Storm leaves icy glaze and travel hazards

Samuel Grant Jr. and Anthony Finney were among the first Baltimore snowplow operators salting roads Monday night and clearing snow and ice as the storm grounded airline flights, caused power outages and closed schools across the region.

"Last night was not bad," Grant said.


And, as the team began a second shift Tuesday afternoon, there wasn't much left to plow. The streets were mostly clear, so Grant guided the plow blade along the roadway shoulder, going "curb-to-curb" to clean up rough spots.

The coastal storm that threatened to pack a snowy double-digit punch delivered just a few inches of a snowy, icy mix to much of the Baltimore region, but it hammered the Northeast.


"We've been spared," declared Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, sizing up her first major weather event in office.

The storm nevertheless caused issues throughout the region that would linger into Wednesday, mainly due to sleet and icy conditions.

Harford County schools announced they would close Wednesday, and schools in Carroll, Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties planned to open two hours late. Several local colleges also announced delayed openings Wednesday. (For information about school delays and closings, go to bsun.md/snowday.)

BGE expected to restore power to nearly all of its 20,000 customers who were without power part of Tuesday, most of them along the Chesapeake Bay from Anne Arundel to Harford counties, according to spokesman Aaron Koos.


Icy conditions in Annapolis and Severn brought down trees and branches — contributing to those outages, and BGE was concerned about lingering ice on power lines.

After experiencing some light rail shutdowns Tuesday, the Maryland Transit Administration said it would have regular service Wednesday with commuter bus, light rail and MARC train service fully operating. MTA local bus service would operate with some street diversions.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, which had closed Tuesday, announced it would stay closed Wednesday as well.

While the powerful nor'easter fell short of forecasters' snow predictions along the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington to New York, it unloaded a foot or more in places mostly inland, grounded more than 6,000 flights, and knocked out power to nearly a quarter-million people.

By the time it reached Massachusetts, it had turned into a blizzard, with near hurricane-force wind gusting over 70 mph along the coast and waves crashing over the seawalls. Up to a foot of snow was expected in the Boston area.

A number of flights were delayed or canceled Tuesday at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, as ice on runways limited operations throughout the day.

But the Mid-Atlantic was largely spared. Snowfall reports Tuesday included eight inches in Westminster, five inches in Cockeysville, four inches in Columbia and slightly more than two inches at BWI, according to the National Weather Service.

This storm means this winter season is no longer tied for Baltimore's least snowy on record: Now there have been 2.9 inches of snow at BWI this season, fifth-least on record.

Forecasters had expected more from this storm, but an area of low pressure stayed closer to the coast than anticipated, drawing in warmer air, said Ray Martin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"That allowed more sleet and freezing rain to mix in then we expected," Martin said. "The storm started and ended when we thought it would and had about as much moisture as we thought it would — it was just a lot icier."

The denser sleet packed down snowfall, leaving thin but slick accumulation on roads and sidewalks, said Keith Krichinsky, executive director of Foot's Forecast in Carroll County.

Unseasonable cold is expected to linger into Wednesday, with highs expected only in the upper 20s. Thursday will see mid-30s, and temperatures in the 40s and lower 50s are expected early next week.

"Certainly by Friday, most of the stuff is going to be melting away," Martin said.

Carroll County saw the region's heaviest precipitation Tuesday, but Jeff Castonguay, the county's director of public works, said crews had roads in reasonably good shape by midday. Still, he expected them to be out through the evening hours and into the early morning putting down salt in advance of Wednesday's commute.

Around the region, residents embraced Tuesday as a day when things were better than expected.

At Westminster Elementary School, the Nowosielski family — Dave Nowosielski, daughters Alina, 15, and Kylah, 7, and sons Everett, 13, and Luke, 8, and Charlie the Goldendoodle — took turns sledding and snowboarding down a hill by the school parking lot.

"I'm just glad we got one good storm to play in," said Dave Nowosielski, a nurse in the emergency department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. "This is the first snow day we've had in years when I wasn't stuck down at work during the storm."

In Bel Air, 9-year-old Brady Perry and his sister Morgan, 11, enjoyed a snowball fight and making snow angels in their Fountain Green neighborhood.

"It's frozen," Morgan said of the snow. "But it's still fun to play in."

Grant and Finney, who began their second snow plow shift in the city Tuesday amid lingering flurries, were greeted with good conditions. Grant drove, with Finney riding "shotgun," keeping an eye out on wide turns and hopping out to help back up and shift salt into the spreader.

They said some people offer money to plow their streets, alleys or driveways. It's a non-starter. The drivers have strict zones, and streets prioritized including ones that lead to hospitals, schools and dialysis centers.

They said many interactions with residents are positive. Residents give drivers a thumbs-up in appreciation for clearing their streets, Grant said.

"Some of them email the mayor and tell her we do a good job," he said.

Both plowed streets during the January 2016 storm, which hammered the region with nearly 30 inches of snow. They recalled arriving in the Frankford neighborhood during that storm to find a line of 15 cars — all of them stuck in the snow. They couldn't plow; they had to get out and help push the cars.

That memory helped them appreciate this storm.

"Last year," Grant said, "the snow kept coming."

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Carrie Wells, Jacob deNobel, David Anderson, Erika Butler and Emily Chappell and the Associated Press contributed to this article.