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Withering weather

February 26, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

The area's heaviest snowfall of the season wreaked havoc Sunday, and a Boonsboro fire department official said crews struggled to get to the scene of an afternoon garage fire.

"We had our engines stuck in the snow, but luckily by the neighbors' good will, they all jumped on their tractors and got their plows, so the unit could get on the scene," Assistant Chief Jeremy Dorsey said after returning from a fire on Gilardi Road.

Forecasters said they expected the storm to bring freezing rain Sunday night, and they called for snow showers tonight.

Sunday's storm dumped 3.4 inches of snow by 8:15 p.m., according to www.i4weather.net. The Web site maintained by Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer says the winter storm of Feb. 13 glazed the area with 3.2 inches of ice and snow.

AccuWeather meteorologist Josh Nagelberg said the winter has been drier than average, with both snowfall and rainfall lighter than normal.

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Nagelberg did not expect Sunday night's freezing rain to amount to major accumulation. He predicted about one-tenth of an inch of ice could fall. National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Woodcock forecast up to one-quarter of an inch of ice.

Road department bosses for Washington County and the City of Hagerstown expressed optimism that the morning commute would be fine.

Eric Deike, manager of public works for the City of Hagerstown, said eight workers were on the roads Sunday, and crews would hit the streets again this morning.

"It's been a long day already. I mean, it's hard to keep guys in here all through the night," Deike said.

Ed Plank, director of Washington County's highway department, said road conditions would depend on the temperature, which at about 8:30 p.m. was hovering just below freezing.

"Salt's working great today, not like the past storm, where we had the extreme cold temperatures," Plank said Sunday.

Nagelberg said area residents can expect another messy wintry mix Thursday and Friday, when ice and snow again are forecast.

Dorsey said firefighters got to the garage fire at 6558 Gilardi Road at 3:37 p.m. - 12 minutes after they left the station and 16 minutes after getting the call. The trip normally takes five minutes, he said.

Fire trucks are heavy, Dorsey said, but they were no match for the storm.

"Once you get a lot of snow and ice - I mean (the trucks) are heavy, and they will go a lot of places a lot of vehicles can't go - but once you get the amount of ice and snow that we had down here, they weren't able to get up the road," Dorsey said.

About 50 firefighters from Boonsboro, Rohrersville, Sharpsburg, Funkstown, Shepherdstown, W.Va., Myersville, Md., and Middletown, Md., responded to the scene. One firefighter was treated at Washington County Hospital after he slipped and fell, Dorsey said.

A hospital spokeswoman said the firefighter was not admitted.

The fire, which damaged a finished area above the garage, was under investigation, Dorsey said.

"The driveway, the homeowner had the driveway perfectly clear. It was the road conditions that hampered our response," Dorsey said.

West Virginia

Schools in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia are closed today because of the wintry weather.

According to school officials and Web sites, public schools in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties are closed today.

In Berkeley County, W.Va., a tractor-trailer traveling on Interstate 81 near the Spring Mills exit went into the median and flipped, dispatchers said.

Rescue officials received the call about 1 p.m. and a short time later the northbound lanes were closed, officials said.

Items from the truck were transferred to another truck and officials worked at the scene for more than six hours, officials said.

No one was hurt in the accident.

West Virginia State Police, who investigated the accident, could not be reached for more details.

The incident was part of a busy day on the snowy interstate, where rescue officials responded to at least 27 accidents from 4 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, dispatchers said.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Panhandle, there was plenty of snow but traffic problems were minor, officials said.

Pennsylvania

Weather watchers in Franklin County, Pa., reported 2 to 3 inches of wet snow Sunday, and meteorologists said midday that the county would be mostly spared from more accumulation.

"The storm started off with a sleet event for about 10 minutes," Robert Wertime said.

Wertime, a Greencastle, Pa., weather watcher, reported 3 inches of accumulation and said the storm ended with sleet.

Waynesboro, Pa., weather watcher Todd Toth said he had 2 inches of very wet snow, and Chambersburg, Pa., weather watcher Jerry Ashway reported 2.8 inches of accumulation from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

County 911 dispatchers said there were several minor vehicle accidents reported.

The National Weather Service forecast a mix of freezing rain, sleet and scattered snow showers ending early today in Franklin County. Meteorologists in the State College, Pa., office said the storm system came across the Plains and hovered over Chicago on Sunday.

Staff writers Dave McMillion and Jennifer Fitch contributed to this story.

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