Residents across Maryland haven't felt the last wintry bite of the snow that lashed the state Tuesday: Its impact will linger through the weekend due to frigid temperatures.
Much of the snow, which measured 7 inches at BWI Tuesday night and topped 11 inches in other areas, will turn to ice. Visibility will be reduced as high winds swirl whatever doesn't freeze back into the air.
"We're used to dealing with the snow. …This is extreme cold combined with precipitation, so it's the not-so-perfect storm," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake after a briefing on citywide emergency operations.
Officials urged commuters and residents across the state to be cautious in coming days, saying wind chills reaching 10 degrees below zero overnight could cause frostbite symptoms quickly and freeze roads. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph are expected to cover plowed roads with fresh layers of snow.
Temperatures are forecast to stay below freezing until Saturday, and will drop again after that, according to the National Weather Service. "We're going to stay well below normal here for at least a week," said Ken Widelski, a NWS meteorologist.
The State Highway Administration reported interstates were mostly free of snow and ice midday Wednesday, with crews who salted and plowed overnight spending the morning "pushing whatever slush and snow left off to the side and shoulders."
Overall, Tuesday's snow caused fewer incidents than past, comparable snow falls, said Valerie Burnette Edgar, a SHA spokeswoman.
"There were some crashes and some pretty serious accidents, but compared to comparable amounts of snow before, this one seemed to go pretty well," she said. School and government closings helped keep many people off the roads, she said.
The agency's "primary concern" going into the rest of the week will be "cold spots" of ice. "I don't know that it's going to get warm enough to melt," Edgar said.
Ice conditions will vary "depending on where you are in the state," she said, and will be unpredictable.
As the snow intensified, the mode of transportation for customers at the ShopRite grocery store on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, gradually switched from driving to walking, said store manager John Conde.
He said the store had plenty of the typical snowstorm items — bread, milk and toilet paper — but customers were also seeking out treats. "It's all pretty much comfort food stuff, a lot of snacks and sodas. I think people are getting ready to hunker down."
Adrienne Barnes, a city transportation spokeswoman, said motorists "should expect some challenging conditions for the morning commute, especially in secondary and neighborhood streets due to a combination of heavy snowfall and drop in temperature."
The city issued a Cold Blue alert through Saturday, which triggers increased services for the homeless and those without heat, for fear that the wet snow will combine with the cold temperatures and cause hypothermia deaths. "We are concerned about the added risk," said Oxiris Barbot, the city's health commissioner.
Human services officials planned to dispatch outreach workers throughout the city overnight to find homeless people and relocate them to shelters and other indoor spaces — including hotels if the shelters are filled.
"We will make arrangements for everyone who is on the street," Rawlings-Blake said.
Other localities also expanded shelter services and opened warming centers.
The storm, which dropped just a few inches in some parts of Maryland and stacked several more than that in others, left the entire state under a winter storm warning — disrupting the afternoon commute just as officials said three-fourths of an inch of snow was dropping per hour.
The snow continued late into Tuesday night, and even Wednesday morning in parts of the Baltimore region, Widelski said, before tapering off around midnight.
By Tuesday night, Baltimore officials had used more than 6,000 tons of salt and were purchasing more to replenish the 9,000 tons they still had on hand. There were 133 city plows and 63 private contractors working to keep roads clear.
Still, commuters were getting stuck, especially on hilly roads, spinning their tires with no effect.
At Centre and St. Paul streets in Mount Vernon, several residents and fellow drivers helped push one car up a hill after it had become stuck for several minutes.
"There you go. Baltimore doing a good deed," said Andrew Porter, 56, a retired Army 1st sergeant who lives in the neighborhood and was out shoveling the sidewalk for a neighbor.
Many services were closed or opened late across Maryland on Tuesday and Wednesday. Public schools and several private schools and local universities and colleges closed for Tuesday, including Morgan State University, Towson University and the University of Baltimore. Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll and Howard counties closed schools to students for Wednesday; Harford County had already planned to close for students. Small jurisdictions and counties closed offices; federal trials were postponed and smaller courts were closed; the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and other local attractions were closed.
Federal government offices in the Washington area closed for all but essential staff; Maryland closed its offices at 11 a.m. Tuesday and declared a liberal leave policy on Wednesday. Baltimore City employees were on liberal leave for all but essential staff.
More than 100 flights — or about a third of all flights — were canceled at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport by the afternoon, with dozens more delayed, according to Flightaware.com, which tracks cancellations and delays. More delays and cancellations were expected Wednesday, particularly in the morning, according to BWI officials.
Similar cancellations were reported at Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Some airlines have relaxed policies for changing flights through Wednesday, said Jonathan Dean, an airport spokesman.
Bus routes and MARC trains were limited, and other transportation services, such as water taxis across the Inner Harbor, were stopped early. Wind restrictions were put in place at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Accidents were reported throughout the state's highway system and on local roads, where drivers were spinning out and getting stuck in slush several inches deep.
At least two accidents were fatal.
About 11:03 a.m., a driver was killed in an accident on Route 140 outside Emmitsburg, just south of the Pennsylvania line in Frederick County, after his vehicle was involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer, according to Maryland State Police.
Two people were killed in an accident several minutes later, on Pennsy Drive in Landover, when the driver of a car lost control and crashed into a taxi. The driver and a passenger were killed, Prince George's County police said. The taxi driver sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
"While the snow hadn't begun to stick to the roadways, the road was wet at the time," police said. "Preliminarily, it appears the wet conditions and speed played a role in the crash."
Those killed were not immediately identified.
The State Highway Administration had more than 2,500 pieces of equipment and some 1,400 state personnel out midday. Emergency snow operations were in effect in most of the state, including all of central Maryland.
Western counties got hit hard, which is common with snowstorms, but the storm also spread east, shutting offices and canceling meetings in Ocean City.
Sandy Dobson, a SHA spokeswoman, said the weather could make a roadway "go from a clear road in the blink of an eye to a covered road because of blowing snow."
Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. kept busy throughout the day restoring power to hundreds of customers, from Aberdeen to Dundalk, Bowie to Hunt Valley and in Baltimore. At one point, nearly 1,000 customers lost power in Annapolis. More than 1,850 customers were without power north of Westminster early Wednesday morning.
Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman cautioned drivers to stay off the roads Tuesday afternoon. Riding from Annapolis to the county's Emergency Operations Center in Glen Burnie, she said she saw multiple cars that slid off the road.
"We don't want people on the roads unless they absolutely have to be," she said.
Officials in other counties offered similar warnings.
Widelski, of the National Weather Service, said the cold snap will continue for days.
The high temperature in the Baltimore region for Wednesday is expected to be about 15 degrees, he said. Highs on Thursday and Friday are expected to remain in the low 20s. Overnight lows will plunge into the single digits, with wind chills driving temperatures even lower.
Rawlings-Blake urged residents not to "remain silent" if they believe a neighbor is in danger from the cold, and to call the city's 311 line.
"It's about safety," she said, "and making sure people in need have what they need."
Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood and Carrie Wells contributed to this article.
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