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Weathering the storm

February 25, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Thursday's winter storm, which accounted for more than one-third of the area's snowfall this winter season, closed schools and iced roads across the county.

The snowfall also brought the area's total closer to its seasonal average.

By 10:35 p.m., Thursday's storm had dropped about 6 inches of snow in Hagerstown, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site at i4weather.net.

Forecasters from the National Weather Service predicted the storm would bring from 3 to 6 inches of snow, and AccuWeather predicted 4 to 8 inches would fall, according to their respective Web sites.

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The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack predicted fair weather and cool temperatures for Thursday.

The snow forced the closure of all Washington County public schools on Thursday, said Washington County Board of Education spokeswoman Carol Mowen.

At about 9 p.m., Mowen said a decision had not been made about today's school operations.

Police and emergency responders were inundated with calls for service, most involving minor accidents, a Washington County 911 dispatcher said. The dispatcher said the number of phone calls for service - most of them for traffic accidents - exceeded 30 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Both he and Maryland State Police Cpl. Jeff Kissner said they had heard no reports of serious injuries by early evening, despite crash reports from nearly every portion of Washington County.

"It's been from one end (of the county) to the other. There's been no certain area," Kissner said at about 8 p.m. "Since 4 p.m., when the heavy snow started, it hasn't let up yet."

John Darnley, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the worst of the storm had passed through the area by 8 p.m.

Thursday's snowfall as of 10 p.m., and previous snowfalls this winter season, amounted to 13.4 inches of snow. The average annual snowfall for the area up to Feb. 24 is about 15 inches, Darnley said. He said the average annual snowfall for Hagerstown is close to 20 inches.

Both the National Weather Service and AccuWeather predicted snowfall for the current season would be average.

Last-minute changes to weather patterns in December and much of January had kept the total down, Darnley said.

"We've had warmer temperatures than expected, so we had rain a couple of times" instead of the predicted snow, Darnley said.

The total, thus far, is behind the pace predicted in the almanac,which called for 42 inches of snow for the full season.

AccuWeather meteorologist Michael McAuliffe said there is still a chance for a 20-inch total for the season, but said "it would have to really pick up the pace here."

McAuliffe said the weather was expected to remain cold and clear through the weekend, but said there was "a 50-50 shot" that more than 4 inches of snow would fall on Monday.

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