Forecasters predict 1-2 inches of snowfall in Baltimore, blizzard conditions in Ocean City; area schools delayed, closed

Meteorologists are warning of a slippery Thursday morning commute in Baltimore and possible blizzard conditions on the Eastern Shore as a potent weather system sweeps up the East Coast.

The storm began lashing Florida, Georgia and South Carolina Wednesday afternoon. It is forecast to strengthen as it heads northeast, its pressure expected to fall to a level on par with a major hurricane by the time it is off the coast of Nova Scotia on Thursday night.


By then, it could drop as much as a foot of snow on Ocean City and an inch or two of snow on the Baltimore region. Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester counties are under a blizzard warning from 7 p.m. Wednesday until 1 p.m. Thursday. Winds there could reach 50 mph and produce white-out conditions.

A winter weather advisory is in effect for Greater Baltimore through 11 a.m. Thursday.

The storm is expected to dump its heaviest snow and whip its strongest winds along the coast. Blizzard warnings were also posted on the New Jersey Shore, Long Island and Cape Cod.

The U.S. Coast Guard was prohibiting ships from entering the Chesapeake Bay from 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday morning, Maryland transportation officials said.

Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore announced Wednesday it will be closed on Thursday.

The rest of the Eastern Shore and possibly parts of Southern Maryland are also expected to see a significant winter storm. About 4 to 6 inches are expected in St. Mary’s, Calvert, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Caroline counties, where winter storm warnings or winter weather advisories were in effect.

Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties. “I urge all Lower Shore residents – and all Marylanders – to stay warm, stay safe, and avoid unnecessary travel. Freezing temperatures and heavy winds mean increased danger on our roads, even after the snow has stopped falling,” he said.

The Interstate 95 corridor through Baltimore is forecast to be at the edge of the precipitation, but the amount of snow accumulation will depend on how closely the storm hugs the coast — a few miles one way or the other could be the difference between flurries and a couple of inches. After watching forecasting models waver on the storm’s eventual path in recent days, National Weather Service meteorologists said they “would not be surprised” to see last-minute shifts that could raise or reduce accumulation forecasts.


As of Wednesday evening, the weather service was calling for 1 to 2 inches along and east of I-95, and a dusting to an inch to the west, as far as Frederick. Forecasters said snow could begin by late Wednesday, “reaching peak intensity and coverage early Thursday morning, and then shifting eastward and away from the region by noon or so Thursday.”

They said the storm has the potential to produce as much as 3 to 5 inches in the Baltimore region, particularly in Anne Arundel County. But if it stays farther off shore than expected, it could also produce just a dusting in Baltimore.

State Highway Administration officials said crews were focusing road pre-treatment efforts on the lower Eastern Shore, with residual salt and brine remaining on most roadways west of the Chesapeake.

Given the recent frigid weather, even a little bit of snow could make for a treacherous Thursday morning commute. The weather service warned motorists to be prepared for the possibility of “significant travel disruptions.”

“The snow will not be particularly heavy in most of the region … but with antecedent very cold weather and surfaces, any snow will rapidly accumulate tonight, resulting in a very tricky rush hour,” forecasters wrote.

“If this threat does materialize during the Thursday morning rush-hour, many roads could quickly turn icy,” they said. “This could lead to dangerous traveling conditions, multiple accidents, and extensive delays.”


Frigid temperatures are expected to help snow accumulations along. Lows are forecast in the upper teens overnight and highs are expected only in the mid- to upper 20s Thursday. Colder temperatures allow for lighter, fluffier snow that accumulates more easily than wetter, denser snow.

The Baltimore Department of Public Works is ordering all utility maintenance crews to work 12-hour overtime shifts without leave beginning Friday and calling in contractors to stem three dozen water main breaks that have sprung up across the region amid sub-freezing temperatures this week.

The cold is expected to persist through the weekend. Highs are only expected in the teens Friday and Saturday, coming close to record cold, and temperatures are forecast to drop into the single digits early Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The storm is also forecast to bring gusty winds, creating sub-zero wind chills from Thursday into Sunday. Around Baltimore, forecasters expect steady 15-20 mph winds and 25-30 mph gusts, making it feel as cold as 5-10 degrees below zero in the overnight and morning hours and close to zero during the day over that stretch.

Temperatures are expected to bound into the 40s Monday.

Temperatures have remained below freezing around Baltimore since Dec. 27, except for a brief period that hit 33 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Dec. 30. By Monday, the sub-freezing streak could grow to nearly 12 days, with the previous eight consecutive days below freezing.