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Second nor'easter buries Tri-State area

January 31, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Road crews throughout the Tri-State Area were back to work again Sunday as another nor'easter dumped 7 to 10 inches of snow, causing hazardous road conditions, school closings and numerous accidents.

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In Fulton County, Pa., four tractor-trailers collided at the 168 mile marker of Interstate 70 at about 1 p.m., said Trooper Paul McMullen of the Pennsylvania State Police in McConnellsburg.

One driver was taken to the Fulton County Medical Center with minor injuries, he said.

Police said two of the rigs were towed from the scene but the other two were driven away.

In Washington County, Sunday's heavy, wet snow made Interstates 70 and 81 slick, according to Maryland State Police.

At noon, state police issued a snow emergency plan for Washington County, recommending that motorists reduce speed and increase following distance.

Several minor accidents were reported by state police, Hagerstown City Police and the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

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Road conditions throughout the area were problematic and contributed to accidents, according to law enforcement officials.

Snowplow drivers with the Maryland State Highway Administration were ready for the storm and had been placed on standby early Sunday morning, according to spokeswoman Suzanne Bond.

One hundred state and contracted snowplow drivers equipped with supplies of salt and magnesium chloride received the call to start plowing Maryland's interstates at 5:30 a.m., she said.

Sunday afternoon, Bond said the roads were passable and wet but not icy.

Maryland State Police issued a special warning to drivers of four-wheel-drive vehicles, "We are noticing operators of 4-by-4 vehicles are disregarding the weather and road conditions, traveling at normal speeds and are creating traffic hazards for other drivers."

Roads throughout Washington County were snow-covered and slippery, said Ted Wolford, Washington County Transportation Department superintendent.

Wolford said 32 county-owned plows, 15 contractors and 10 supervisors driving pickup trucks were busy clearing roads.

The snow started to fall around 5 a.m. in Washington County, stopped for a few hours and then came down steadily throughout the evening.

Hagerstown Weather Watcher Greg Keefer's Web Site reported a snowfall total in the city of 2.7 inches at 1:30 p.m. and 5.3 inches at 3:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., 6.7 inches of snow had fallen and just a half an hour later 7 inches was reported. At 8:30 p.m., 7.8 inches had fallen and snow was still coming down.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service had predicted Sunday's snowfall last week.

However, last Tuesday, weather predictions faltered and many were left unprepared as seven to 13.5 inches of snow fell over the Tri-State area.

That storm also closed schools and businesses and made travel difficult.

As nor'easters travel over Maryland, they bring with them warm, moist air. As that air hits cold pockets over land, the result is heavy snow and/or mixed precipitation, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service.

Some of the snow remaining from the Tuesday and Sunday storms should melt this week as temperatures are predicted to be in the 40s. Flurries are expected today, changing to sunny skies for the rest of the week, forecasters with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said.

Larry McGee, the Franklin County maintenance manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said there were 34 department crews and nine private contractors working on state roads Sunday. Before the snow hit, crews were out hitting Interstate 81 and major state roads with liquid calcium chloride.

"The roads are going to be snow-covered as long as it keeps putting down snow," McGee said. Franklin County was expected to receive 7 to 10 inches or more before snow tapered off.

"By work traffic tomorrow the roads should be in good shape," he said, adding that Sunday's snow, unlike Tuesday's, was wetter and heavier and less likely to drift over roads if winds pick up. Crews were still plowing and salting roads Friday because of the drifting snow from Tuesday, he said.

Being in the county maintenance center on Super Bowl Sunday didn't seem to bother McGee. "You have to be an advertisement fanatic to watch the Super Bowl, because it takes four hours to play a 60-minute game," he said.

In Martinsburg, W.Va., about 8 inches had fallen as of 8:30 p.m., and travel was reduced to a crawl.

"You're basically going from 25 mph to 35 mph on the interstate," said West Virginia State Police Trooper K.W. Martin.

On back roads, about the only vehicles getting around were those equipped with four-wheel drive, Martin said.

Waynesboro School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Mesaros said the snow will not affect schools today because it's an in-service day for teachers and administrators. Students and bus drivers will be off, regardless of road conditions, he said.

School officials in Jefferson County announced Sunday that schools would be closed today. High school exams will resume when school is back in session, spokeswoman Liz Thompson said.

In the immediate area, the high snow total was reported in Frederick, which had 10 inches by 8:30 p.m., according to a weather observer there.

- Staff writers Don Aines and Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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