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Weather causes closings, delays

February 04, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Cars, vans, and even a fire truck, slid off icy roads throughout the day Tuesday as more snow, fog, sleet and freezing rain blanketed Washington County.

The weather also closed county schools, caused city governments to reschedule public meetings, and caused court delays, including a delay in the first-degree murder trial of Karim Ali Ward. The trial, postponed Tuesday, is expected to resume today.

Officials from the county police agencies logged about two dozen accidents beginning Tuesday morning, and calls for accidents continued to crackle over police radios into the night.

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Many of the accidents may have been caused by over-anxious drivers, one police officer said.

Things go well "as long as temperatures stay up and the stuff doesn't freeze," said Washington County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Travers Ruppert. But Tuesday's weather may have fooled drivers, he said.

"It was slushy out, but the snow wasn't sticking, and people had that false sense of security. ... They go a little too fast and they wreck," Ruppert said.

Accidents were reported across the county, according to Maryland State Police in Hagerstown and the Sheriff's Department. State police handled about a dozen minor accidents in which no injuries were reported, and another six in which police reports were taken.

In one accident, a Michigan driver lost control of her minivan, which skidded and turned onto its side in the westbound lanes of Interstate 70 on South Mountain. Maryland State Police said none of the five occupants sustained life-threatening injuries.

In another accident, a fire truck from the Potomac Valley Volunteer Fire Co. in Sharpsburg skidded off the road and struck a tree, said Ron Gray, the fire company chief.

Gray said he was in fire engine 114 as it was heading to an accident at the intersection of U.S. 340 and Md. 67. Firefighter Thomas Ingram, 24, who has been driving fire trucks for about six years, was behind the wheel.

Gray said the truck had slid a little earlier in the ride, and Ingram slowed down when they came to a curve on Back Road when "it just started sliding."

Gray said the truck's bumper was slightly damaged, but the truck wasn't disabled, and he put it back in service Tuesday night.

Washington County Highway Department Director Ted Wolford said most of the county received a coating of ice and the western-most areas, near Hancock, received a foot or more of snow.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the weather that hit the area Tuesday is typical for this time of year. He said about an 1 1/2 inches of snow and ice fell near Hagerstown, as well as about an inch of rain.

From February through the middle of March, Sosnowski said, rising temperatures to the south mix with the still cooler temperatures in the mid-Atlantic region to produce strong, moist storms.

"We'll see this more often going into the early spring," he said.

The next winter storm is expected Thursday night and Friday morning, when conditions are likely to produce another mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain, Sosnowski said.

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