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Battle of pressure systems leaves forecasters guessing

January 31, 2011|By DAVE MCMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

The latest round of winter weather headed for Hagerstown remained a mystery Monday night as forecasters waited to see how much cold air would move into the region.

The majority of precipitation was expected to fall Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, according to Matthew Kramar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

If a strong low-pressure system moving through the Ohio Valley pulls in warmer temperatures, Hagerstown could see mostly rain Tuesday night and Wednesday, Kramar said.

If a cold, arctic high-pressure system over New England instead drives down temperatures Tuesday night and Wednesday, the Hagerstown area could get ice, Kramar said.

“It’s going to be a battle between those two air masses to see which one wins out,” Kramar said Monday night.

Although Kramar said his office will know more about the weather system as it nears, he said forecasters were leaning toward the probability of icy weather Tuesday night and Wednesday.

If Hagerstown ends up with freezing rain Tuesday night and Wednesday, the area could end up with one-quarter of an inch to a half-inch of ice, which would be enough to snap power lines, Kramar said.

The Hagerstown area was expected to have mostly light accumulations of ice overnight Monday, Kramar said.

Precipitation was expected to taper off during the day Tuesday, then a second band of precipitation was expected to hit the area after rush hour Tuesday night, Kramar said.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory from midnight Monday through noon Tuesday.

A winter storm watch was in effect from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service said.

Light snow and sleet Monday night were expected to change to light freezing rain and freezing drizzle, the weather service said. Snow and sleet accumulations of less than a half-inch were possible and ice accumulation was expected to be around a trace to one-tenth of an inch, the weather service said.

The Maryland State Highway Administration issued a statement Monday urging motorists to use caution as the storm system moves into the state.

“Forecasters say ice may cause the biggest headache for citizens during this storm,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in the statement.

Motorists are being encouraged to slow down and allow plenty of time for their commute.

More than 2,700 personnel, 2,400 pieces of equipment and 270,000 tons of salt were set aside for the storm, state highway officials said.

Highway crews also pretreated interstates with salt brine Monday as a proactive measure to delay the initial bond of snow and ice from forming.

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