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Complex winter storm could dump 6 inches on region

Baltimore could get 6 inches or more of snow by Tuesday, a glancing blow from what the National Weather Service called a "potentially historic" blizzard that has New York and Boston bracing for record snowfalls this week.

National Weather Service forecasters are calling for 1 to 2 inches of snow in the Baltimore area by late Monday morning, with intermittent snow and rain throughout the day. A winter weather advisory is in effect across the region through 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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But the storm is expected to be "more complicated" than a typical clipper system, which brings quick bursts of snow. Such storms quickly sweep from western Canada across the United States, but this one is forecast to strengthen once it reaches the East Coast.

That could mean another period of snowfall Monday night into Tuesday, though that forecast is less certain, meteorologists said. A winter storm watch is in effect across the region from Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon, and forecasters cautioned it could mean another 3 to 5 inches of snow in the Baltimore area. Up to 8 inches are possible in Baltimore's northern suburbs.

A number of Baltimore-area school systems delayed openings or closed Monday due to the snow. The B&O Railroad Museum and The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore are closed.

"This is a complex series of storms, and there is still some uncertainty," said Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement on Monday. "I urge everyone to use good judgment and stay off the roads if at all possible to allow highway crews to get the roads clear. I'd also ask that people check on relatives, friends and neighbors — especially the elderly or other vulnerable residents. Helping your neighbors also helps our first responders."

The storm is expected to gather steam when it passes Baltimore and deliver 2 to 3 feet of snow from northern New Jersey to Connecticut. That led New York's mayor and other officials to warn of potentially historic snowfalls.

In the Baltimore area, temperatures are forecast to remain below freezing through Tuesday, with highs right around the freezing mark and lows in the upper 20s to lower 30s Monday morning and in the mid-20s Tuesday morning.

The system is also expected to sweep in blustery winds, with 10-15 mph breezes and 20 mph gusts Monday and Tuesday.

City transportation officials said they would go into "full snow activation" Sunday night, when more than 300 essential employees would begin the pre-treating of primary and secondary roads. About 15,000 pounds of salt were on hand for pre-treating and 263 plows were available to move snow. Plowing will begin after the snow accumulates to 2 inches.

"We will work continuously, 24 hours around the clock, until all roads are clear," saidcity Transportation Director William Johnson. He said the city's goal is to have roads clear 24 hours after snowfall stops if accumulations are less than a foot.

Storms with a mix of freezing rain, snow and sleet can be harder to deal with, Johnson said. Rain may wash away salt before snowfall begins, and ice accumulates. Freezing temperatures after a storm may make it harder for melting treatments to work.

The city is also detailing extra tow trucks around ramps, hills and other treacherous areas where motorists may get stuck.He encouraged residents to move cars from snow emergency routes.

"We need to give our plowing operation the best opportunity that they can to open the streets up as soon as possible after the snow stops falling," Johnson said.

Maryland has 330,000 tons of salt in its stockpile and 600 trucks at the ready for the Baltimore area alone, State Highway Administration spokesman Dave Buck said.

"We're fine for many, many storms to come," he said.

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The weather has the potential to wreak havoc on Monday and Tuesday commutes, Buck said, and drivers shouldn't get a false sense of security from the last few winter storms missing the region.

"The last three didn't hit us, and you don't want to seem like you're crying wolf, but we keep preaching the message and we want people to keep listening," he said.

Home improvement stores are stocking up for a snowy start to the week.

The Home Depot in Dundalk ordered 10 pallets of road salt, six or seven pallets of calcium chloride and hundreds of shovels in anticipation of high demand, assistant manager David Regal said.

Employees at the Eastern Avenue store also moved any remotely snow-related products to the front of the aisles, Regal said. "Even toilet paper. Anything you could think of."

Lowe's in Catonsville was awaiting a salt shipment Sunday evening. Assistant store manager Jim Smith said the store's inventory is in good shape, but the corporate suppliers don't take any chances.

"Even though we have a lot of stuff now, they'll have more sent to make sure we're stocked up in case there's a rush," Smith said.

In Landsdowne Sunday, four children were rescued after falling through ice into a pond in Hillcrest Park, the Baltimore County Fire Department said.

Two bystanders rescued three of the children from the frozen pond behind Landsdowne High; the other was pulled out by rescue workers after a short search, fire officials said. Two of the children were in critical condition, and the other two were in serious condition.

The weather had not affected any flights as of Sunday at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, but a number of major airlines including Southwest have relaxed their flight-change policies for the storms, spokesman Jonathan Dean said.

Dean said passengers with flight plans should check with their airlines for up-to-date information.

A blizzard warning was issued for New York and Boston, and the National Weather Service said the massive storm would bring heavy snow and powerful winds starting Monday and into Tuesday.

"This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Sunday.

De Blasio held up a piece of paper showing the city's top 10 snowstorms and said this one could land at the top of a list that goes back to 1872, including the 26.9 inches that fell in 2006.

"Don't underestimate this storm. Prepare for the worst," De Blasio said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Dance, Andrea McDaniels and Jessica Anderson, and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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