Winter's first big snow socks Tri-State

December 30, 1997

Winter's first big snow socks Tri-State


Staff Writer

The first significant snowstorm of the winter season swept into the Tri-State area Monday evening, dumping 8 1/2 inches of snow on Hagerstown.

Snow started falling in the Hagerstown area after 5 p.m. with more than 4 inches on the ground by 10:30 p.m.

Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer had recorded 8 1/2 inches by 3:30 this morning with snow still falling lightly after that.


In Williamsport, more than 11 inches was recorded while at the Washington County Regional Airport, 8 inches of snow was on the ground this morning.

"We are open and on time this morning,'' said Carolyn Motz, airport manager. The main runway was kept open and clear Monday night and this morning, thanks to crews running every piece of equipment available to keep it that way, Motz said.

Miraculously, there were few serious wrecks after the initial flurry of accidents when the snow first began coming down hard Monday, police agencies in the area said.

Traffic on interstates and most county roads was light through the night, thus cutting down the potential for wrecks, police said.

A tractor trailer was reportedly on its side just south of the Marlowe, W.Va., interchange of southbound Interstate 81shortly before 7 this morning.

Traffic wasn't impeded as the truck was on the berm. There was no one injured, according to West Virginia State Police in Martinsburg.

"We have been out all night,'' said Ted Wolford, superintendent of the Washington County Transportation Department. "Most places got 8 inches and more.''

Wolford said he was most concerned that winds would whip up today and cause drifting.

"We have a good supply of chemicals and all our equipment is up and running,'' Wolford said.

Washington County's snow emergency plan went into effect at 8:30 p.m., banning vehicles not equipped with chains or snow tires from snow emergency routes.

Jim Wiesmueller, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said winter storm warnings were in effect throughout the region Monday night.

He said the higher-elevation areas would get more snow, with Hagerstown likely to receive between 6 and 12 inches.

"It could be more, but it's a pretty fast-moving storm," he said. "I doubt if you'll get double digits" of accumulation.

In nearby Martinsburg, W.Va., 14 inches of snow was measured within town limits this morning with snow still falling hard at 5:30 a.m.

Wiesmueller said the storm was expected to taper off to scattered snow showers early today, with windy and cold conditions taking over.

The possibility of snow sent many into grocery stores for provisions.

"It's been exceptionally busy," said Steve Hines, manager of County Market in Hagerstown. "We've got all the registers going right now, and for a Monday, that's pretty good."

Jeff Sines, manager of the Valley Plaza Weis Market, said people were stocking up on bread, milk and other staples throughout the morning.

"Any time they call for snow, people get excited - like they're going to get snowed in for a couple of days," he said. "It's died off now a little bit, but we were busy this morning."

Road crews planned ahead for the anticipated snowfall.

Jim Sterling, assistant superintendent of the Washington County Roads Department, said crews spent much of the early evening laying salt in an attempt to prevent the roads from freezing.

After the snow began accumulating after 9 p.m., he said they began plowing.

Sterling said 12 independent contractors joined 31 county trucks on the streets. He said crews would continue to plow as long as needed. After that, he said he hoped the wind would remain calm.

"Two inches of snow could turn into a foot real quick," he said, echoing Wolford's concern.

Hagerstown road crews were out most of the night and were still plowing and salting at mid-morning.

"It was hard keeping up with it at was coming down so hard,'' said David Shrader, supervisor of the signal/sign department with Hagerstown Public Works.

Staff Writers Don Aines, Marlo Barnhart and Lisa Graybeal contributed to this story.

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