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State highway officials call Wednesday's snow a 'perfect storm'

January 27, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

If you're looking for an answer to how only 8 to 10 inches of snow could make conditions so bad on area roadways during Wednesday's storm, attribute it to "bad timing," a weather official said.

Or, in the words of state highway officials, it was the "perfect storm."

One of the reasons the storm paralyzed the region was because Wednesday's precipitation switched from sleet and rain to snow at about 5 p.m., just in time for the evening rush hour, said Heather Sheffield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Then, the snow began falling faster and motorists could not see, Sheffield said.

Other contributing factors were heavy traffic and abandoned and disabled vehicles, according to a news release from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Yet, Sheffield said people were warned of the approaching storm. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch on Tuesday at 10:16 a.m., and a warning was issued at 6:02 p.m. Tuesday, Sheffield said.

After the heavy snow started falling Wednesday night, Interstate 70 on South Mountain was essentially shut down in both directions because trucks and cars could not make it up the grade, officials said.

Drivers were sitting along the interstate waiting for snow plows. But some SHA crews were also trapped, while others were diverted from plowing operations to help motorists, officials said.

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