Cold temperatures, high wind could hamper snow removal efforts

BALTIMORE - The snow has mostly stopped falling in Maryland, but high winds and extreme cold temperatures are expected to cause problems throughout the day Friday.

ABC2 News is forecasting that temperatures may struggle to hit the lower 20s across the state with wind chill values in the -20 to -15 range. In addition, winds could gust as high as 46 mph following a snow storm that dropped 4 to 6 inches across the area and led every major school system in the area to close.

Utility and road crews report that those conditions could hamper their ability to treat roads and deal with power outages.

BGE reported as of 8:30 a.m. there were about 1,900 customers without power. The areas most impacted have been Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

BGE spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said BGE crews were out in the field throughout the night as the wind was picking up and they have additional crews available to deal with power restoration throughout the day. BGE has also been in contact with its mutual assistance network which allows them to bring in crews from other states if needed.

State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar said around the metro area, the interstates are in fairly good condition, and in some cases, down to the bare pavement. But, secondary roads will likely continue to be a problem throughout the day.

"The problem is with high winds you go to an area where there are a lot of trees or an open space like farm field and that wind is going to take that snow and put it right back into the roadway making it very hazardous for motorists who get overconfident and take speeds way too fast," Gischlar said.

"You could be going down what appears to be bare pavement on the beltway then go to one of those areas where there is open space and you're right into snow again. Use a heightened sense of caution with the bitter cold temperatures because the ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze first."

Individual jurisdictions are also taking an aggressive approach to snow and ice removal.

Lauren Byrd with the Baltimore County operations center said 100 percent of the county roads have been salted, but many roads will likely need to be retreated as the high winds will cause snow drifts and re-cover the roads. She said there have also been reports of downed trees and limbs in roadways.

Also of concern, Byrd said, is the freezing temperatures as the salt used to treat the roads generally only works when temperatures reach 27 or above.

"We will have crews out re-salting all day hoping the traction will help [melt the ice]," Byrd said.

In Baltimore City, the Code Blue issued Thursday was extended to 10 a.m. Saturday. According to the Department of Health, Code Blue is a multi-agency coordinated approach to providing vulnerable populations in Baltimore City with relief from extreme cold weather. The program's goal is to reduce the number of hypothermia deaths and related illnesses in the city.

In addition, Baltimore Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kathy Chopper is urging residents to be patient as crews work to clear primary roads first before attacking many residential areas. However, she said most roads should at least be passable today.
"The city always addresses primary roadways first so emergency personnel and police can move around and get where they need to go," Chopper said. "Then we move into secondary and side streets."
Harford County officials reported that northern parts of the county were hit with 8 inches of snow.
Harford's Department of Public Works dispatched more than 130 personnel to help clear and treat roads. Crews began working Thursday afternoon and worked until approximately 10 p.m.  Road crews resumed plowing and treating county roads at approximately 3 a.m. Friday. Although county roads are passable, drifting snow is a concern and could result in some roads being temporarily closed.
In all, Harford  reported 23 accidents occurred throughout the county from 4 p.m. Thursday until 4 a.m. Friday morning with four resulting in personal injuries.
"Today one of our concerns is the subfreezing temperatures and wind chill," said Harford County Emergency Manager Rick Ayers in a statement.  "Those who venture outdoors should dress for blizzard like conditions and stay hydrated.  Due to icy conditions on our roads, those who do not have to travel should wait until conditions improve."




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