BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A state of emergency is in effect as a major snowstorm arrives in Maryland. It could be the biggest storm of the season.

Meghan McCorkell has the latest.

The storm system has already left five people dead in the Southeast, cut power to 250,000 and put 22 states under winter weather advisories.

The first flakes begin to fall in what could be the biggest storm of this winter season.

“We’re just planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Kenneth Mallette, MEMA director.

Emergency and highway crews are taking no chances, preparing for a wide variety of conditions, including ice, sleet and snow.

“This is gonna be the all hands on decks, and we’re gonna bring all of our contractors in. We’re gonna be using all the 2,300-2,400 pieces of equipment that we have,” said Charlie Gischlar, State Highway Administration.

The governor has declared a state of emergency across Maryland.

“This is going to be a nasty, wet, icy event here in Maryland that will go on for 24 hours,” Governor O’Malley said.

From Sky Eye Chopper 13, you can see the lines of salt trucks hitting the streets.

The National Guard is also getting vehicles into position to respond to any storm-related emergencies.

“The ice is obviously the biggest concern. I mean, that’s the unknown. Snow is one thing… snow is easy to get through. We’re not really worried too much about snow,” said Lt. Col. Charles Kohler, Maryland National Guard. “When it comes to ice, even these things have a difficult time stopping.”

The Maryland Guard said Wednesday that up to 250 soldiers and airmen have been authorized for active duty to provide assistance.

Gen. James A. Adkins, the adjutant general, says in previous snowstorms, the Maryland Guard has helped stranded motorists and worked with local law enforcement and firefighters with transportation and evacuation.

The governor is calling the upcoming snow storm a 24 hour event that will put an extra burden on the energy grid.

“It’s been a long winter for many Maryland families. With the polar vortex, a bad ice storm and several snowstorms already this year, it’s incredibly important for all Marylanders to remain vigilant and find smart ways to safely conserve energy,” O’Malley said in a release. “Once again we ask our residents to be prepared, avoid travel if at all possible, and remember to keep an eye on relatives, friends and neighbors.”

The ice is also a big concern when it comes to power outages. Last week’s ice storm has already weakened some trees, which could take out more power lines.

“We’re weakened from last week’s ice storm already, so with the heavy wet snow that’s coming, and the amount of snow that’s expected, power outages could be a concern,” said Brendan McClusky, Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Now BGE is staging crews across the region to prepare.

BGE has called in 400 out of state utility workers from as far away as Alabama, Georgia and Missouri. But ice and snow can cause more issues for those crews.

“They are not only driving on hazardous road conditions, they’re walking in several inches of snow to get back to where a damage site is,” said Rachael Lighty, BGE spokesperson. “They’re climbing ice covered poles and they’re manually putting poles and transformers back up.”

Despite the difficulties, officials say they’re ready for whatever comes.

The state emergency operations center has been activated and will remain active throughout the storm.

The last time a snow state of emergency was issued was the blizzard of 2010. That storm crippled Maryland for days.

Emergency officials are urging everyone to stay off the roads once the snow starts falling.

“Do all the common sense things,” the governor said.

“It sends a big message to citizens that this is serious. We need you to be on alert. And frankly when it does start snowing and we say stay home, this is really the one. Stay home,” said Valerie Burnette Edgar, Maryland State Highway Administration.

In addition to heavy, wet snow, there will be high winds as the storm intensifies.

SHA says signal outages are possible and drivers should approach dark intersections as four-way stops. All travelers should remain alert for pedestrians and utility crews.  SHA reminds motorists to clean vehicles off completely before driving.  This includes not only glass surfaces but the hood and roof of vehicles, as well as head and tail lights.

Residents should have a disaster supply kit with water, non-perishable food, a battery or crank-operated radio and other necessities in case of an extended power outage. Now is also the time to make sure cell phones and other devices are fully charged in case of a power outage.

Do not leave pets exposed to cold and snow for long periods. If your pets must remain outside, make sure they have a dry shelter, plenty of food and drinkable (non-frozen) water.  Do not put blankets or pillows in their shelter as they may become wet and frozen in a snowstorm.

The following Web sites can provide more winter preparedness information:

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