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Winter falls in

First snowstorm of year was heavier than expected

some schools out

First snowstorm of year was heavier than expected

December 06, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS and HEATHER KEELS

The Tri-State area felt the aftereffects Thursday of the first snow of the winter season, as many children received a holiday from school and motorists battled with ice-covered secondary roads.

The snow emergency plan for Washington County was lifted at 6 a.m. Thursday, Maryland State Police announced. However, classes were canceled in Washington County Public Schools, as well as schools in in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia. Waynesboro, Pa., schools were to open two hours late.

Wednesday's snow was heavier than forecasters anticipated, an AccuWeather meteorologist said.

A Hagerstown weather station recorded 4 inches of snow, according to local weather watcher Greg Keefer's Web site at i4weather.net. Hancock reported 4 1/2 inches and Smithsburg reported 3 inches, AccuWeather meteorologist Jon Pacheco said.

The snow tapered off at about 8 p.m., he said.

Today should be mostly sunny, with no precipitation and a high of 33 degrees, Pacheco said.

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Treated roadways should make for a nonproblematic morning commute, but secondary roads still could be a little slick, he said.

Another round of precipitation is possible Friday, but little or no accumulation is expected, Pacheco said.

Local police said the weather contributed to minor accidents, particularly during the first few hours of the storm and during the evening rush hour of 5 to 7 p.m.

"There was a lot of slipping and sliding going on, with cars being unable to stop on the ice, but it slowed down once the salt trucks were able to keep up with the freezing that was taking place," Hagerstown Police Lt. Mark Holtzman said.

He encouraged drivers to allow for plenty of stopping distance.

"The roads are going to be icy where you think they're not icy," he said.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department responded to at least 34 accidents Wednesday, a dispatcher said. Most were minor fender-benders, but a few vehicles rolled, he said.

In Hagerstown, one person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries after a two-vehicle accident on West Franklin Street just before 5 p.m., a Hagerstown Police dispatcher said.

Maryland State Police Sgt. Robert Reid warned that interstate ramps were still icy in spots at about 9:30 p.m.

Washington County Public Schools officials called for a two-hour early dismissal Wednesday. Public schools in Frederick County, Md., Berkeley County, W.Va., and the Tuscarora, Chambersburg Area, Waynesboro Area and Greencastle-Antrim school districts in Pennsylvania also dismissed two hours early.

The only incident Washington County Public Schools spokeswoman Will Kauffman reported involved a school bus in the Hancock area that slid off the road.

The bus driver called the schools transportation department. Someone from the county roads department and officials from the schools transportation department responded to the scene to ensure the bus could safely move along its route, Kauffman said.

No injuries or additional problems were reported, he said.

Kauffman said school officials were continuously consulting with the Maryland State Highway Administration, the county roads department and public works department.

Earlier Wednesday, emergency response workers warned area residents to stay inside as snow accumulated.

The snow emergency plan for Washington County went into effect at 9:30 a.m., Maryland State Police said.

The plan went into effect in Allegany County, Md., at 9:15 a.m., police said.

Washington County students arrived at school on time Wednesday morning without incident, Kauffman said.

"I have no indication of any problems at the start of the day, he said.

School officials monitor weather forecasts days in advance, anticipating any potential problems, he said.

Staff members were out Tuesday night and Wednesday morning assessing conditions, he said.

"The entire staff is cautious in conditions like this," he said.

When delaying start times or closing school is an issue, transportation staff and Boyd Michael, assistant superintendent for school operations, make a recommendation to Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, who makes the ultimate decision, Kauffman said.

Staff writer Erin Cunningham contributed to this story.

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