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Winter tightens grip

Winter storm blankets Tri-State area

Winter storm blankets Tri-State area

March 01, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - Public officials, public works employees and weather forecasters seemed reluctant to go out on a limb with predictions on conditions for today as Monday's winter storm tapered off in the evening.

Although some forecasts called for up to 10 inches of snow to fall in the Hagerstown area Monday, about 4.7 inches had fallen by 10:15 p.m., according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site at i4weather.net. That total brought the 2004-2005 season's total to 18.2 inches, the site said.

AccuWeather predicted the storm would drop 4 to 8 inches on the area, while the National Weather Service predicted 6 to 10 inches, according to their Web sites.

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Nikole Listemaa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's office in Sterling, Va., said at about 7:30 p.m. that the worst of the storm likely had passed through the Washington County area. But she said a winter storm warning would remain in effect into early today, and that the chance for up to 10 inches still existed.

"I can't pin down an amount ... because the banding is where the heaviest snow is, and it's hard to tell where it's going to go," she said. "... It's not over yet."

Listemaa said light freezing drizzle could fall early today, with high temperatures expected to be in the low to mid-30s coupled with sustained winds of 15 to 25 mph and 40 mph gusts.

"Road conditions will only deteriorate from there, if they haven't already," Listemaa said.

The City of Hagers-town and Washington County personnel said public works employees would clear and treat roads through the night in an attempt to ensure a safe commute this morning.

Hagerstown Public Works Manager Eric Deike said road crews caught a bit of a break because it appeared the snow would end around midnight. Deike said it was easier to clear the snow then because "there isn't as much traffic on the roads; we don't need to be going in between cars."

He said conditions likely won't be optimal today and urged motorists to leave early for destinations and to drive slowly.

"There's going to be some icy conditions on just about any road you drive on (today)," Deike said.

Washington County Highway Department Director Ted Wolford said he believed that nearly every road in the county would be passable by this afternoon, although workers would have "a lot of work to do yet," overnight.

"Once the snow stops, we can cover almost every road in the county within 12 hours," he said.

Wolford said that roads could be covered and become dangerous again if predictions of high winds were accurate.

Calls for accidents in Washington County were few and far between, a Washington County 911 Center spokeswoman said. She said none of the crash reports she was aware of involved serious injuries.

She said there were no reports of significant service outages.

Washington County Board of Education spokeswoman Carol Mowen said schools officials would not decide on the status of schools, which were closed to students Monday, until about 5:15 a.m. today. She said it is the school board's standard procedure to wait until morning to make a call.

City spokeswoman Karen Giffin said city offices would be open today, but nonessential employees would have the option of using personal, vacation or comp time. She said the status of this evening's Hagerstown City Council meeting would be determined today.

In West Virginia


Schools in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties are closed today.

On Monday, roads in Berkeley County were OK until about 5 p.m., said Danny Clark, county administrator for the Department of Highways. Then roads started to freeze, allowing the snow to stick, said Clark.

On Monday night, highway crews were concentrating on clearing highways such as W.Va. 9, W.Va. 45, W.Va. 51 and W.Va. 901, Clark said.

Crews might be able to start clearing secondary roads around daybreak, Clark said.

"It all depends on Mother Nature," Clark said.

A dispatcher at the county's 911 center said motorists were sliding off roads and into each other, but knew of no major crashes.

A maintenance supervisor for the Interstate 81 maintenance office in Berkeley County said traffic flow did not seem to be hampered on the highway during the day.

Highway crews initially treated I-81 with salt then moved to a mixture of salt and gravel, said Eddie Lucas.

In Jefferson County, highway crews were working to keep primary roads clear Monday night, said Department of Highways foreman Tony Thomas.

Thomas said crews might be able to start working on secondary roads in the early morning hours today.

A 911 dispatcher in Jefferson County said Tuesday night that there had only been one accident, on Ridge Road.

In Morgan County, a Department of Highways truck was involved in a wreck on Cacapon Road, a dispatcher said.

In Pennsylvania


Doug Tosten, equipment manager at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Franklin County maintenance shed, said both shifts had been working on state roads in the county since early Monday.

"We're doing what we can do and the crews are out. The roads are snow-covered. We plow 'em off and the snow covers 'em back up," Tosten said.

A Franklin County 911 spokesman said 10 weather-related accidents were reported between 3 and 9 p.m., but none appeared to involve major injuries. Most were minor fender benders or motorists stranded in the median of Interstate 81, the spokesman said.

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