As heavy snow started to fall Saturday afternoon, driving conditions became treacherous. Transportation officials urged residents to stay put if possible. Around 2:45 p.m. Saturday Baltimore's Department of Transportation asked drivers to stay off the Jones Falls Expressway. At the same time, all lanes of southbound I-95 at I-395 were closed for several disabled vehicles, the MDTA reported over Twitter.
Several vehicle accidents have been reported around the region, including a vehicle fire on I-95 north near Dundalk Avenue.
The city's department of transportation director William Johnson urged people to stay off roads Saturday, saying that while trucks are out plowing and salting road, the snow is expected to continue throughout the evening, and that not all roads will be fully clear until Sunday morning. Williams warned that people should "stay off the roads until they are clear."
About 250 pieces of equipment are being deployed throughout the city, officials said. Crews were deployed starting at 11 a.m. to begin treating streets.
"The roads are going to continue to be bad," even with constant salting and plowing, Johnson said. "There's going to be accumulation until the snow drops off," which isn't expected until Saturday night, he said.
Until then, city officials said they've gotten numerous reports of vehicles becoming stranded and struck, especially at hilly areas.
A winter storm warning for Baltimore is in effect until Sunday at 9 a.m., with between 4 and 8 inches of snow and sleet expected.
According to the National Weather Service, the heaviest snow is expected this afternoon, and it will change to freezing rain.
State Highway Administration officials are warning of challenging driving conditions this weekend and say they are preparing plows and salt for the storm.
SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters issued a statement reminding drivers to "slow down, leave extra distance between vehicles, don't crowd the plow and focus on just driving."
SHA officials said drivers should also remain alert for power outages, fallen tree limbs and debris. Drivers are reminded that when traffic lights are not functioning, intersections should be treated as a four-way stop.
The city health department extended the Code Blue alert until Wednesday.
About 175 people spent Thursday night at the overflow shelter at the War Memorial building, said Adrienne Breidenstine, executive director of The Journey Home, the city agency that addresses homelessness. The city's regular shelters, which can accommodate 1,352 people during Code Blue days, were full, she said.
Should more people need shelter this weekend — because they are homeless or pipes burst in their homes — the War Memorial can hold up to 200, and the city has another building it can open as well, Breidenstine said.
"We're taking this very seriously," she said. "This prolonged period of cold weather can become very dangerous."
There have been six cold-weather deaths in the city so far this year, officials said. The statewide total of cold-weather deaths this winter is 21.
Connor Scott, spokesman for the city's Office of Emergency Management, urged residents to call 311 if they notice homeless residents out on the street so city employees can take them to the shelter. While some people decline to go inside, Scott said it's important for city officials to at least give them the option, and check on them if they choose to remain outside.
"It's a full court press to get as many people inside as possible," Scott said. "We don't want to miss anyone."
Saturday will mark the 22nd Code Blue day this winter, a city health department spokesman said.
Baltimore County public schools canceled weekend activities.
In late February, Baltimore typically sees lows in the upper 20s, and highs in the mid-40s.
A slight warm-up is expected Sunday, when temperatures are expected to reach the 40s by the afternoon. Rain is expected in the morning, ending by midday.
On Monday and Tuesday, chillier weather will return, with temperatures dropping back to the 20s. Another storm is possible Wednesday, but National Weather Service meteorologist Heather Sheffield said it is expected to move to the south.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jean Marbella contributed to this article.