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Messy March: Md. Prepares For Wintry Mix Of Rain, Sleet & Snow

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TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Marylanders brace for another serious winter hit from Mother Nature.

Derek Valcourt reports crews are preparing for the snow.

State highway crews are getting used to it. This is the 31st time they’ve been deployed for snow removal so far this winter.

Mother Nature clearly doesn’t care if you’re sick of winter—another round is coming this way.

“It’s going to be another rough one,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “I’m looking for that Punxsutawney Phil.”

State and local officials say they’re ready. Twenty-thousand tons of salt arrived at the Port of Baltimore this weekend. Crews will break out the plows once the snow starts piling up.

Highway officials say if drivers stay home and off the roads, they can clear major arteries faster.

“But all it takes is one serious crash during rush hour on the Beltway or on 95, and then it’s like, ‘Well, there’s a 25 mile backup, why weren’t you out there?’ Well, we were out there, but that crash kept us from doing what we needed to do,” said Dave Buck, SHA.

Because of all the rain that started falling Sunday afternoon, crews did not pre-treat the roads. They say the rain would have just washed it all away.

Instead, they say they’ll start spreading tons of salt as soon as the temperatures dip below zero.

“Travel conditions could be hazardous Sunday evening and much of Monday during the storm.  Crews work to reduce the impact of the weather conditions but it is not until it stops snowing that they can make headway and clear travel lanes,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters.  “We ask motorists to monitor forecasts closely and potentially delay travel to provide SHA crews the space necessary to treat the roads.”

Highway officials say storms that start at night come with them their own sets of positives and negatives.

“They’re good for traffic–people know about it–they’re not on the roads, schools and governments will react,” Buck said. “They’re tough on our crews. We’ve had so many storms this year that have started at 8 or 9 o’clock at night. So maybe they go home, they get a couple hours sleep.”

The big concern—the potential for a dangerous morning commute.

“We don’t want anybody on the roads if it’s freezing rain and sleet,” Buck said. “It’s dangerous out there for our crews, much less people trying to get around in an SUV or any other vehicle.”

Motorists can plan their route in advance by dialing 511 from a land line or mobile phone for traffic, weather alerts and road conditions.

“We want all Marylanders to be safe during this winter weather. Due to the timing of this storm, we would like residents to be particularly mindful during the morning commute,” said MEMA Executive Director Ken Mallette. “We are encouraging Maryland residents to refrain from traveling on the roadways, if possible. If travel is absolutely necessary, always keep a family member or friend informed of your route, ensure your cell phone is fully charged, and keep your gas tank at least half full.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley is also encouraging residents to take safety precautions.

“As we are faced with another winter storm this season, we encourage all residents to remain vigilant and exercise extreme caution if traveling on the roadways is necessary,”  the governor said in a release. “We also encourage employers to monitor weather developments and consider employee and customer safety when making decisions about their operational status.”

BGE is warning its customers to brace for potential power problems, but it’s not the snow they’re worried about.

“Ice is really the most detrimental to our electric system,” said Rachael Lighty, BGE spokesperson. “And so we do have crews, an increased number of crews, stationed throughout the service territory should we see this freezing rain turn into ice and really coat those trees and tree limbs.”

Many schools aren’t taking any chances, canceling classes in advance of the latest winter wallop.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot has declared a Code Blue in Baltimore for Sunday through Wednesday.

“Wind chills in the single digits or teens combined with the expected cold temperatures can create dangerous conditions for anyone outside for an extended period of time,” Barbot said in a release . “We urge individuals to stay indoors in safely heated areas to minimize the risk of hypothermia. If people must go outside in the cold, we urge them to dress warmly and in layers. For those experiencing homelessness, we encourage them to take advantage of shelter resources that are routinely provided.”

Baltimore’s homeless and seniors are among the most vulnerable populations in extreme cold weather. During the Code Blue alert, emergency shelters will operate with overflow capacity and workers will conduct outreach for vulnerable residents.

Residents can report cold-related issues during the Cold Blue Alert by calling 311 anytime between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and  410-396-3100 after hours.

Amtrak will operate at a modified snow schedule on Monday. All MARC trains are canceled.

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