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Winter returns to Tri-state

March 09, 1999

Snow fightBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo; JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




A late winter storm that dumped up to 6 inches of snow on the Tri-State area was blamed for a number of traffic accidents, including one on Interstate 81 in West Virginia that claimed the life of a Berkeley Springs, W.Va., man Tuesday afternoon.

Douglas Davis, 53, died when his car crashed into a tractor-trailer on a slippery northbound Interstate 81 near Falling Waters about 12:30 p.m., said State Police Trooper R.C. Copson.

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Davis was taken to Washington County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The driver of the truck, Michael Ohagen, 38, of Cambridge, Ontario, was not injured.

Police said weather conditions were a contributing factor and said no charges would be filed.

The snowfall began in Washington County around 9 a.m. Tuesday and continued falling throughout the day. Washington County registered about 4 inches of snow by Tuesday night.

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Martinsburg, W.Va., received about 6 inches of snow and about 3 inches fell in Waynesboro, Pa.

By 10 a.m. Tuesday, the Washington County Board of Education had decided to close schools two hours early.

Schools in Frederick County, Md., and Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia also sent students home early Tuesday afternoon.

Jefferson County schools also called off classes for today, said spokeswoman Liz Thompson.

The Washington County Board of Education canceled general equivalency diploma classes at Washington County Technical High School this week. Classes and registration will begin March 16.

The basketball final between Hedgesville and Keyser, W.Va., was postponed until today.

In West Virginia, slick roads contributed to accidents on I-81 and surrounding roads.

"We've had traffic accidents all over the place. I don't think there's a place in the county where we haven't had a wreck," said West Virginia State Police Sgt. Rob Blair.

The City of Martinsburg placed its snow emergency plan in effect at 5 a.m. Tuesday, banning parking on Queen Street between Commerce and Stephen streets and on King Street between Spring and Charles streets.

Berkeley County Sheriff's deputies handled about 15 calls for minor wrecks and stranded motorists by late Tuesday afternoon, said Sheriff's Department Capt. C.E. Keller.

In Jefferson County, W.Va., travel was difficult everywhere, especially on Blue Ridge Mountain.

Jefferson County Sheriff William Senseney said deputies were busy all day responding to wrecks.

"There was a lot of people we just pushed out of a ditch and told them to get on down the road," said Senseney.

Although the total number of accidents was not available, one police officer put it close to 30.

On George Street in Charles Town, W.Va., a head-on collision sent a 16-year-old boy to the hospital after an air bag deployed and scraped his chin, said Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge.

Pennsylvania received the smallest amount of snow in the Tri-State area, but drivers still had it tough, according to local police.

About a dozen accidents were reported in Franklin County between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., according to the county's 911 center.

Most of the accidents occurred in the southern part of the county, with five accidents in Washington Township and two in Antrim Township.

One of those was at the Exit 2 southbound off-ramp at Interstate 81. None of those accidents required motorists to be taken to a hospital for treatment, according to dispatchers.

The 911 center reported that a vehicle went into a tree and one or two occupants were trapped inside in a one-vehicle crash occurred on Pa. 233 about two miles north of U.S. 30 in Greene Township. Pennsylvania State Police had not filed a report on the 1:57 p.m. accident as of Tuesday evening.

A four-wheel-drive pickup truck heading west slid across the median on East Main Street in downtown Mercersburg, Pa., and slammed into a van driven by a woman carrying her two young children and an older man, said borough Police Chief Larry Thomas.

There were no injuries, but both vehicles were heavily damaged, Thomas said.

Pennsylvania State Police in McConnellsburg reported two minor accidents in Fulton County. A trooper there said there were no problems with the county's roads.

State and local police in Washington County reported fender-benders but no serious accidents, according to a city dispatcher.

"The main roads in Washington County are clear. Some of the back roads may still be snow-covered and slippery," Maryland State Trooper 1st Class M.D. Kretzer said Tuesday night.

He said motorists should use caution while driving and maintain a safe distance between cars.

Hagerstown City Police Sgt. Richard Reynolds said roads in the city were wet but clear Tuesday night.

"People should be OK if they use reasonable care," he said.

Washington County Department of Transportation workers using 32 trucks cleared roads Tuesday and Tuesday night, said Ted Wolford, department superintendent.

March storms are not usual for Washington County, according to statistics listed on Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

Washington County received 6.05 inches of snow in March 1998, and 6.90 inches that month in 1994. In 1993, 6.77 inches fell during March, Keefer said.

He said the wettest March on record was in 1913 when 6.99 inches fell. The driest was in 1910 with .08 inches of snow, he said.

The weather forecast for today for Washington County, Berkeley County, W.Va., and Franklin County, Pa., calls for it to be partly cloudy with some lingering snow. Highs will be in the 40s, according to the National Weather Service.

Staff writers Don Aines, Richard F. Belisle, Dave McMillion and Bryn Mickle contributed to this story.

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