Marylanders make the most out of a snowy Sunday. (Amy Davis, Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun video)
Five inches of snow covered Baltimore in the first wintry weekend of 2019, with the looming possibility of more later this week.
Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s county public schools and the University of Maryland, College Park, among others, are closed Monday, and officials warned drivers to use caution when navigating wet and possibly icy roads.
The federal government, in the midst of the longest-running shutdown in U.S. history, will also be closed for the weather. MARC trains and MTA commuter buses will operate on a modified schedule.
In Baltimore City, where schools are closed Monday, some rec centers will open at 8 a.m. to offer free meals to students.
Snow emergency plans remained in effect as of 7 a.m. Monday for Allegany, Calvert, Charles, Howard, Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George's, Somerset, St. Mary's, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester counties, according to Maryland State Police.
Temperatures were expected to remain below freezing through the Monday morning commute, leading to possible slippery road conditions, the National Weather Service warned. By Monday morning, 305 crashes had been reported to state police, who received nearly 1,400 calls for service.
Refreezing snow on the thawing pavement will pose the biggest threat in the first half of the week, and a light snow Thursday night could give way to another “multiday, heavy precipitation event next weekend,” said Luis Rosa, a National Weather Service meteorologist, although it’s not yet clear when or how much.
That’s on top of the 5 inches already reported in the Baltimore area. Some parts of the metro area had even greater accumulations: Catonsville reported 9 inches of snow, and more than 6 inches fell at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, according to NWS.
A winter weather advisory is no longer in effect, but lingering snow could cause difficulties with travel. Michelle Pourciau, director of the department of transportation, advised Baltimoreans to drive slowly and to clear snow completely off the top of their cars.
More than 2,500 plows and other pieces of snow-removal equipment were dispatched across the state to clear this weekend’s snow, according to the State Highway Administration. Pavement temperatures remained in the 20s and 30s, which is “the optimal range for salt effectiveness,” the agency said.
In Baltimore, more than 400 trucks had been plowing and salting city streets since about 4 p.m. Saturday, and most primary roads had been cleared as of Sunday afternoon, according to the city Department of Transportation.
But on Federal Hill, the fun wasn’t finished.
Hundreds of sledding runs had packed the snow tightly on the hill’s rolling east side, facing the American Visionary Art Museum, and while patches of grass and dirt could slow you down, it was plenty for a few rides down the side.
Aberina Kelly, 5, of Federal Hill grinned in her pink-and-rainbow winter hat and squealed down the hill in a red plastic sled — assisted by a push at the top from her father, Tim Kelly, while her brother, Taylen Allen, 2, stood nearby.
“Lean back!” Tim Kelly shouted after his daughter as the sled picked up speed.
Her other brother, Tavon Allen, 5, trod his way back up the hill after a run, a blue saucer in his hand.
“I ran out of breath!” he gasped.
Wayne Bessling of Pasadena pulled blue reflective goggles over his eyes, slipped his feet into the straps of a snowboard and felt the rush of wind and adrenaline as he approached a makeshift ramp, a bump of hard-packed snow at a landing between two downhills.
The 17-year-old Northeast High School student got some air, but his foot slipped from its strap and he bailed from the board, rolling part of the way down the hill.
“It’s the perfect packing weather,” he said, all smiles afterward. “It’s perfect snow for snowballs, ramps and whatever.”
Higher accumulation totals than the initial weekend forecast of 2 inches to 4 inches were due in part to a slowing of the storm in recent days, Rosa said.
Before the storm, there had been only 1.4 inches of snow this season at BWI, the Baltimore region’s point of record. All of that came in November. There was not even a trace of December snow here for the first time since 2001, according to weather service statistics.
The weather service meteorologists tracking the storms across the country are working without pay during the government shutdown, but expect to be paid retroactively once the budget impasse is resolved.
Christina Heng and Jonathan Ko said they had been out sledding on Federal Hill for about half an hour Sunday. Or was it an hour? They had lost track of time.
Heng, 28, of Ridgely’s Delight tried out some makeshift snowboarding of her own on a flat sled closer to the bottom. While it looked like a long way to the top, she noted, gravity does most of the work.
“It’s much quicker going down,” she said.
Those opting to stay inside sacrificed a great time for warmth, said Ko, 27, of Elkridge.