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Nor'easter pummels Tri-State area

January 25, 2000

Snow tunnelBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

left photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER; other photos: RIC DUGAN / staff photographers




A nor'easter that roared up the East Coast and swept through the Tri-State area Tuesday dropped more than a foot of snow across parts of the region, closed schools and offices, slowed traffic to a crawl and prompted Gov. Parris Glendening to declare a state of emergency in Maryland.

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Snow started falling in Washington County around 5 a.m. Tuesday and continued throughout the day before tapering off in the early evening.

By Tuesday evening, from 6 to 13.5 inches of snow had fallen in Washington County.

In West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, Martinsburg reported 9 inches of snow by early evening, Shannondale received 12 inches and 11.5 inches had fallen on Bakerton, according to the National Weather Service.

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About 6 to 7 inches of snow fell on the Chambersburg, Pa., area, but Fulton County got only about 2 inches of snow, weather observer Gerry Ashway said.

A decision on whether Washington County public schools will be open today was to be made at 5 a.m., said spokeswoman Donna Messina. Schools in Jefferson County, W.Va., and Franklin County, Pa., will be closed today.

Glendening's emergency declaration puts the Maryland National Guard on standby to offer four-wheel-drive support to local emergency personnel if necessary. He also closed all state offices for today, except for those in Allegany and Garrett counties, which were not hit hard by snow.

By 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, the State Highway Administration asked drivers in Frederick County, Md., to avoid using highways in the county, said David Buck, a spokesmen for the agency.

Hagerstown's Tuesday snowfall exceeded the 9.3 inches typical for all of January, according to Hagerstown Weather Observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

A total of 18.2 inches of snow has fallen so far this winter, Keefer said.

Eating snowWashington County schools and Washington County offices closed Tuesday as a result of the weather.

Government meetings, including that of Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council, were postponed and rescheduled for 7 p.m. next Tuesday, said city spokeswoman Karen Giffin.

The County Commuter quit running at 3 p.m. Tuesday because of low ridership, Kevin Cerrone, director of transportation, said.

Hagerstown Regional Airport closed down at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday and was to reopen at 4 a.m. today, Airport Manager Carolyn Mott said.

Maryland State Police and the Washington County Sheriff's Department reported a few minor accidents in Washington County.

In Franklin County, Pa., a 1986 Honda struck the rear of a stopped Shippensburg School District bus carrying 57 children on snow-covered Pa. 696 in South Hampton County, Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg said. No injuries were reported.

The snowfall took many by surprise since forecasters had predicted a light snowfall for Tuesday.

National Weather Service Meteorologist John Newkirk blamed the storm on a low pressure system that developed over Georgia and the Carolinas.

"It was supposed to develop further east. When it hit the water it exploded and expanded west," he said.

Forecasters should have seen the storm coming, said Al Lowry, who was clearing snow from his car in a downtown parking lot.

"I'm disappointed that the people didn't know what they were doing," Lowry said.

Bill Gladhill, an attendant at a downtown parking lot, said he saw on the 11 p.m. television news Monday that a storm was heading this way.

"I was looking for it," he said. "It did not surprise me."

Newkirk said weather models the forecasters use in their predictions were wrong about the storm. He added that Washington County residents can keep their snow shovels out because they likely will need them today.

Snow showers are expected during the day, with temperatures reaching the 30s. The area could see a few more inches of accumulation, he said.

Thursday and Friday will be mostly sunny with highs in the 30s and lows in the teens, Newkirk said.

Snow blowerExhausted road crews, who had struggled all day Tuesday to keep the roads free from fast-falling snow, continued to work into the evening.

"The roads are passable, but we have to keep the plows going day and night to get them in better shape," said City Public Works Director Douglas Stull.

Twelve plows cleared the city's main roads and salt and sand were spread at intersections, he said.

In the midst of the activity, a city-owned snowblower was taken, Stull told Hagerstown City Police Tuesday afternoon.

A maintenance worker had been using the snowblower to clear a sidewalk near City Hall and placed it in the building's breezeway. When he returned later it was gone, Stull said.

Washington County roads were snow-covered and slippery Tuesday evening, according to Ted Wolford, superintendent of the Washington County Transportation Department.

"The roads are terrible all over," he said.

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