Public schools in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties are closed Thursday after a winter storm coated the region with snow overnight.
Meteorologists reported as much as a couple of inches around Baltimore and 10 inches on the Eastern Shore. They warned that once snow tapers off around midday, dangerous wind chills and frigid temperatures are ahead.
The State Highway Administration redeployed snow-removal equipment Thursday — including at least one massive highway snow blower — to Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties in Southern Maryland from Garrett, Allegany, Carroll and Frederick counties — which had far less snow — spokesman Charlie Gischlar said.
A fleet of nearly 1,900 trucks, plows, snow blowers and other pieces of heavy equipment was clearing roads across Maryland Thursday, he said.
A blizzard warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. in Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester, with winds causing white-out conditions and producing large snow drifts. The storm produced winds as high as 77 mph on the Chesapeake Bay, and of 53 and 54 mph in Ocean City.
Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in those Eastern Shore counties, encouraging people to stay off the roads if possible.
“I urge all Lower Shore residents — and all Marylanders — to stay warm, stay safe, and avoid unnecessary travel,” the governor said. “Freezing temperatures and heavy winds mean increased danger on our roads, even after the snow has stopped falling.”
Up to an inch of snow was reported along and just west of Interstate 95, with about 2 inches across Anne Arundel and 3-5 inches in Southern Maryland. The heaviest snow fell on the lower Eastern Shore, where the National Weather Service reported 10 inches in Salisbury and 8.7 inches in Ocean Pines.
Only one Maryland public school system — Washington County — opened on time Thursday.
Schools in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford and Howard counties closed Thursday. Baltimore City Schools — many of them dealing with heating issues earlier in the week — also closed.
A number of other school systems on the Eastern Shore closed.
Some Baltimore-area colleges delayed opening, while Salisbury University on the lower Eastern Shore closed.
The American Visionary Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art and its shop, Historic Ships in Baltimore, the Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery Children’s Museum, and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture have delayed their openings until noon. the B&O Railroad Museum, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House are closed all day.
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.
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.
The storm is dumping its heaviest snow and whipping its strongest winds along the coast. Blizzard warnings were also posted on the New Jersey Shore, Long Island and along the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine.
Once the storm passes, a wind chill advisory will go into affect across Central Maryland at 10 p.m., lasting through midday Friday. With temperatures falling into the single digits and winds gusting up to 30 mph, it is expected to feel as cold as 15 degrees below zero, and as warm as 5 degrees above zero.
Meteorologists warned that such cold can cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes if skin is left exposed.
This story will be updated.
Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Meehan contributed to this article.