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Christmas Eve snow blamed for multiple accidents

more snow, freezing rain expected Wednesday

December 26, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE and DAVE McMILLION | julieg@herald-mail.com and davem@herald-mail.com
  • A pedestrian waits to cross Washington Street in downtown Hagerstown during Monday evening's snowstorm.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Hagerstown and the surrounding area woke up Tuesday to a white Christmas, much of which had melted by the evening as another storm was expected to bring a wintry mix, including ice, that would make travel treacherous Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

On Christmas Day, the National Weather Service upgraded a winter storm watch for the region to a winter storm advisory, as up to two-tenths of an inch of ice accumulation is expected in the Hagerstown area and along the Interstate 81 corridor through Wednesday night, meteorologist Jared Klein said.

The winter weather advisory for a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain in the Tri-State area is in effect until 6 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service’s website at www.weather.gov.

Snow was expected to begin between 5 and 7 a.m. Wednesday across the region, mixing with sleet later in the morning, according to the updated advisory issued at 4:05 a.m. The mixture would be changing to freezing rain by Wednesday afternoon along higher elevations, the weather service said, with the heaviest precipitation is expected Wednesday afternoon.

The winter weather advisory covered Hagerstown, Martinsburg, W.Va., Charles Town, W.Va., and Frederick, Md.

A similar winter weather advisory, covering Chambersburg, Pa., was in effect for 10 a.m. Wednesday through 7 a.m. Thursday and warned of hazardous travel and possible power outages, as ice could build up on power lines and trees.

The new storm is coming from the Gulf States area, Klein said.

An inch to 3 inches of snow and sleet could accumulate in the region, with up to two-tenths of an inch in West-Central Maryland and West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, the advisory states.

The storm also is expected to bring winds of 10 mph to 20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph. Low temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 20s, with high temperatures in the lower 30s, the advisory at www.weather.gov states.

Tuesday morning was much quieter than Christmas Eve afternoon, when a snowstorm caught motorists off guard, sending vehicles into ditches, making some inclines impossible to navigate and slowing traffic to a crawl on Interstate 70, police said.

By 6 p.m. Monday, 2.9 inches of snow had fallen in Hagerstown, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer’s website at www.i4weather.net.

The snow emergency plan for Washington County was lifted at 10 a.m. Christmas Day, 17 1/2 hours after it went into effect on Monday as snow and ice created hazardous driving conditions the afternoon of Christmas Eve, according to Maryland State Police.

Even so, state police cautioned drivers that some state-maintained roads might still have slippery areas, and not all roads were completely clear of snow and ice Tuesday, according to a news release from state police.

A Washington County 911 supervisor said dispatchers handled reports of about 43 crashes Monday afternoon and early evening.

On Md. 34 near Antietam National Cemetery, some vehicles struggled to get up inclines and some ended up on the side of the road.

At the top a hill just up from a BP gas station in Sharpsburg, a man was pitching in to help by throwing salt onto Md. 34.

Vehicles were inching down the hill, but the man said the biggest problem motorists had was trying to get up the hill.

In one mid-afternoon crash Monday, a vehicle rolled over in the 14000 block of Blairs Valley Road. It did not appear to cause any life-threatening injuries, said Sgt. Danny Faith of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Faith said the Monday snow appeared to take motorists by surprise. He said his department was inundated with crashes, although the reports began to decrease by about 6:40 p.m.

Traffic on Interstate 70, particularly westbound, became bogged down apparently due to high traffic volume Monday combined with the snow, a Maryland State Police spokeswoman said.

Calvin Meadows, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said the storm did not take his office by surprise.

The weather service knew the Hagerstown area was going to get some type of precipitation Monday and forecast one to two inches of snow or ice, Meadows said.

The snow stopped by 7 p.m.

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