Schools close, region blanketed following overnight snow

The Baltimore area was blanketed by 3-5 inches of snow overnight as a winter storm moved north through the region. More snow is predicted Wednesday. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

A wintry storm system moving north through the Mid-Atlantic region blanketed Baltimore overnight with a layer of snow between 3-5 inches around the region, the most this winter.

Schools in Baltimore City as well as Anne Arundel, Harford, Howard and Baltimore counties are closed today. Several Maryland colleges, including the University of Maryland, College Park, planned to open late or close. Find a full list of school closings and delays at bsun.md/snowday.


The National Weather Service declared a winter storm warning until noon, cautioning motorists of slippery roads and low visibility that could make driving treacherous. NWS at 8:40 a.m. reported that Baltimore's suburbs were hit with as much as 5.5 inches of snow along MD 2 near Parole, as much as 5 inches along U.S. 1 in Laurel as much as 4.5 inches of snow along MD 702 west of Middle River.

Gov. Larry Hogan issued a statement on Tuesday morning urging motorists to remain off the roadways.


"By remaining off roadways, state highway and local crews will be able to more efficiently clear our roads," Hogan said. He also asked residents to look out for neighbors and anyone who may need help.

The Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Administration said it is prioritizing interstates, followed by highways. Secondary roads will be cleared as the day goes along.

"If you must drive today, don't be in a hurry. Take it slow. Make sure your car is completely cleared off," State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar said Tuesday morning.

On Townsend Avenue in Brooklyn, Earl Melvin gradually shoveled out his car Tuesday morning. Townsend Avenue, like most streets in Brooklyn, had been plowed, leaving a long pile of snow alongside the cars parked on the street.


As he shoveled, Melvin said he was glad the storm didn't end up with snow totals at the higher end of the forecast. The light snow was easy to shovel.

"It's coming out pretty good," he said.

A record-tying low of 5 degrees was recorded at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport on Monday. It ties the old record set in 1905, according to the National Weather Service.

The bitter cold is forecast to remain through the weekend, with temperatures in the teens and 20s, wind chills below zero and a chance of more snow showers Wednesday and Sunday, the weather service said.

The low temperatures caused pipes and water mains to burst in the city and Baltimore County, and the city declared its seventh Code Blue of the season.

Federal offices in the Washington, D.C. area are closed, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) officials said on Tuesday morning they will continue to operate the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate response activities. The agency said that those who must travel should carry car chargers and kitty litter or sand for traction. Officials also encouraged those shoveling snow to take breaks and keep hydrated.

State Department of Transportation officials said that all MVA offices and VEIP stations are closed on Tuesday. E-Z Pass Stop-In centers and the customer service center is closed, DOT said.

The Maryland Transit Administration said that there is no commuter bus service on Tuesday. MTA also reported major MARC train delays and minor local bus and mobility vehicle delays. MTA said that Train 427 (10:25 a.m. Baltimore departure) has been canceled due to unavailability of equipment.

The metro subway and light rail are running on schedule, MTA said.

DPW added said that there will be no street sweeping on Tuesday but officials will "make every effort" to pick up trash and recycling. Trash and recycling not picked up on Tuesday will be retrieved on Wednesday, DPW said.

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation said that Charm City Circulator service is operating on a two-hour delay, and there is no service on the Charm City Circulator's Harbor Connector.

Amtrak officials said that service along its Northeast Corridor will operate on a modified schedule.

Carroll County officials said on Tuesday morning that due to inclement weather and a water main break government offices will open at noon. Senior centers will open at 10 a.m., and the north landfill will open at 9 a.m., officials said.

The Baltimore City Needle Exchange Program will work from the vans outside of the office at 2300 Garrison Blvd and not traveling to Tuesday mobile sites, city officials said.

Harford county officials said that just after 7 a.m. the Aberdeen Fire Department was dispatched to an apartment fire at the Warwick Plaza Apartments on the 100 block of Plaza Court. No injuries were reported and one adult was displaced, officials said.

White House officials said that due to inclement weather Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Barbara Mikulski will not visit the Maryland State Police Forensic Science Laboratory on Tuesday for an event that was slated for 3:30 p.m. The event has been canceled for Tuesday, officials said.

As light snow flurries began Monday night, a steady stream of dump trucks pulled up to a salt dome at a State Highway Administration maintenance shop in Owings Mills. The line of trucks, at times, circled around the dome as drivers waited for their trucks to be filled and sent out on the road.

Many Baltimore County roads still have salt on them from the weekend, but crews will add more as needed to prevent the snow from sticking, said Lauren Watley, a county spokeswoman.

Inside a garage at the Owings Mills facility, mechanics gave a once-over to trucks and plows, making last-minute adjustments to salt spreaders and mirrors. All told, the shop is responsible for 546 miles of key arteries, including the Baltimore Beltway, Interstate 795, part of Interstate 95 and all of Interstate 195 leading to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Aamir Khurram, the shop's resident maintenance engineer, was preparing for a long night and day — or days — ahead, monitoring the work of state employees and contractors.

"I'll be here until the event's end," he said.

After a winter of storms that haven't lived up to their forecasts, Khurram and his team were ready to go. "We're excited. It's a real snow and we're ready to deal with it," he said.

The Owings Mills shop includes 50 state employees as well as scores of contractors. The salt dome can hold 4,500 tons of salt, which was being parceled out in batches of 20 tons for the largest trucks and 5 tons for smaller trucks. Some trucks also will use liquid magnesium chloride to treat roads.

For the first 24 hours of the storm, the Owings Mills shop is all hands on deck, with every employee working straight through. After that — if it takes that long — employees will alternate 12 hours on with 12 hours off.

In Annapolis, the city's parking garages opened to free parking for city residents who live on snow emergency routes. The city is prepared for a "Level II" alert, in which parking is banned on emergency snow routes.


About 58,000 BGE customers lost power due to high winds during the weekend storm, but the company doesn't expect such outages this week, a spokeswoman said.


Still, the company dispatched crews across the Baltimore area Monday in anticipation of the storm, spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said. While the lighter snow expected this week tends not to bring down as many tree branches on power lines, it makes roads slick and causes crashes into power distribution poles that cause outages, Lighty said.

But while few residents faced outages, more than 200 establishments were ordered to shut off their power for 24 hours from Sunday to Monday during a natural gas curtailment to "manage demand on the gas system in extremely cold weather," Lighty said.

The "interruptable service customers," which include industrial companies, businesses, hospitals and schools, pay a reduced utility rate with the understanding that they will power down when BGE deems it necessary in drastic weather situations. Many have backup power sources they use in such situations, Lighty said.

One such business, J.M. Huber Corp.'s silicate factory in Havre de Grace, was put on its second gas curtailment in 60 years due to the cold, according to a customer supervisor at the plant.

The roughly 75 workers at the plant ceased production of the company's abrasive and thickening chemicals, used in toothpaste, paper, tires and various foods, between 6 p.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. Monday, said Pam Crouse, the supervisor.

Presidents Day weekend has brought some of Maryland's biggest snowstorms, including the record-breaking 26.8 inches so heavy it brought down part of the roof of the B&O Railroad Museum on Feb. 17, 2003.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Joe Burris, Jessica Anderson, Paul McCardell, E.B. Furgurson III, Tim Pratt, John Fritze and the Associated Press contributed to this article.