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Maryland Rings In 2014 With First Major Snowstorm Of The Year

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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The first major storm of the new year is underway, with more than 100 million Americans impacted. In Maryland, there is significant snowfall in some places, with snow emergency plans in effect in several counties.

Derek Valcourt has more on the slippery streets in North Baltimore.

Just in time for rush hour, it started falling fast and steady.

“I don’t like this at all,” said Natalie Miller.

Soon accumulation started on the cars, then in parking lots, and then, it started sticking to the roads.

“I know it’s going to be bad in the morning,” one driver said.

Grocery stores were busy with last-minute runs from people like Shannon Lipp, who filled up her shopping cart.

“So I don’t have to go out tomorrow,” she said.

Driving conditions got worse quickly. Traffic slowed as the snow sped up, leaving many behind the wheel on edge.

“I take it easy. But mostly, I watch other drivers,” said Pat Geyer.

The State Highway Administration budgeted $46 million for snow removal and has spent $28 million so far this season.

In the metropolitan area, the storm was the SHA’s sixth call-out for snow and ice response.

Some of the busiest places are the salt domes, where there are lines of trucks waiting and the front end loaders can’t move fast enough.

“The salt is effective to about 20 degrees, and that’s pavement temperature,” said Dave Buck, Maryland State Highway Administration. “We can mix salt brine in, which makes it effective closer to 10 or 8 degrees, and then we can also mix liquid magnesium in, which takes it down below zero.”

An army of city, county and state trucks have been out plowing and salting ever since.

“We will get to all of the neighborhoods, but sometimes it can take up to 12 hours,” said Lauren Byrd, Baltimore County Government.

For transportation officials, the concern isn’t the snow–it’s the bitter cold expected to follow.

These will be the coldest temperatures of the season so far. Combined with gusting winds, they pose a danger to anyone outside for long.

“It’s the time of exposure and obviously, the extent the coldness of the exposure,” said Dr. Ryan Fey.

Baltimore City Health Department has issued a Code Blue weather alert effective 6 p.m. Thursday and all day Friday.

As a result of the Code Blue declaration, emergency shelters will keep extended hours and emergency workers will conduct outreach for vulnerable residents.

This will be the third Code Blue declaration of the season. Previous declarations were issued for Dec. 10-13  and Dec. 15-16.

“With the temperatures dropping as quickly as they are expected to be dropping, there could be some icing,” said Kathy Chopper, Baltimore City Dept. of Transportation.

And that raises big worries for the morning commute.

“Obviously, we just want to treat as much as we can on the back-end of the storm,” said Buck. “Because anything that’s still there is going to freeze, and it’s going to stay frozen because it’s not supposed to get very warm for a couple of days.”

The SHA advises drivers to stay off the roads during the storm.

“When you’re talking about not so much the snow, but this bitter, brutal cold right after the snow. We don’t want to hear any stories about people who are out in their car, and they’re stranded, and they can’t get anybody to them,” Buck said.

BWI-Marshall airport is experiencing some delays. Check with your airline carrier for details.

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