BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Officials are warning Marylanders of icy roads on their Thursday morning commute after a snowy, slushy mess created problems for motorists Wednesday as the first significant winter storm of the season hit the state.
Parts of Maryland were blanketed with the season’s first major snowfall and although city, county and state officials were prepared for the weather, it still caused problems along roadways.
Maryland State Police said they responded to over 800 calls for service, including 262 crashes on state highways between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
#UPDATE From 9am to 9pm, @mdsp responded to 826 calls for service, which included 262 crashes, 170 disabled/unattended vehicles & 13 roadside hazards (i.e. downed trees, wires). pic.twitter.com/gdyOt7Qmua
— MD State Police (@MDSP) December 17, 2020
Officials urged motorists to stay off the roads — many that were pretreated on Tuesday — however, the snow, wintry mix and freezing rain mix made for slick driving surfaces.
Clearing Roads Along The Baltimore City/County Line
WJZ’s Paul Gessler was live in northwest Baltimore where the city and county were working together to clear the roads.
The snow started to stick to the roads around noon, but later turned to freezing rain. Local leaders said they were ready for this.
“Covering up and keeping bundled,” said Elijah Bradley, of Baltimore. “Stay warm!”
“Yeah, I’m a little shaky about [traveling], but it’s a chance to actually have a Christmas,” said Femi Oyebele, of Baltimore. “So snow on Christmas is always a good thing.”
— Paul Gessler (@PaulGessler) December 16, 2020
“2020 has been a wild year, so I think this will be a joyful moment,” Bradley said.
The city and county had more than 100,000 tons of salt at the ready and nearly 900 employees either pretreated or cleared the roads.
“We expect that within 24 hours of the last snowfall, we’ll have all the roads clear,” Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said.
“Sit back, wait for the storm to pass, and allow our crews to protect you,” said Shanteé Felix, of the Maryland State Highway Administration.
“Uh, it looks beautiful, but for us (drivers), it could be a little bit difficult,” said Harold, a truck driver.
“Hopefully, it melts quickly,” said Wilner. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”
Here’s how city roads were prioritized: first, it was the high-volume roadways and those with access to police district headquarters, fire stations, and hospitals. Next, come those secondary roads before your residential street is addressed.
Mayor Brandon Scott called for residents’ “full cooperation” to clear snow from City streets, asking everyone to be a good neighbor.
“If you do not have to be on the road, don’t be on the road so that we can allow our crews to focus and do the work that they need to do,” Scott said.
Much Heavier Snow In Carroll County
Areas north and west of Baltimore City saw much more snow Wednesday.
WJZ’s Rachel Menitoff said the roads driving out to Carroll County were treacherous.
Carroll County Maintenance Center says it just wrapped up Phase 1 of its winter weather response – salting the roads (this was important to do before the snow actually sticks) and is beginning Phase 2 – aggressive plowing. Crews will be plowing roads throughout the night. @wjz pic.twitter.com/fLIFfjZYhz
— Rachel Menitoff (@RachelMenitoff) December 16, 2020
Crews in Carroll County are completed Phase 1 which consisted of salting the roads before the snow stuck. They move onto Phase 2 which consisted of plowing the roads through the night. Once they are done plowing the roads, they will go back to salting the roads.
Getting Supplies In Harford County
North of Baltimore in Harford County, snow also turned to rain and plows made their rounds hitting the major routes repeatedly and getting into the neighborhoods.
WJZ’s Rachael Cardin was live from Fallston where crews in Harford County had 1,000 miles of road from Route 40 to the Pennsylvania line, so they had their work cut out for them.
And still, with all that preparation, cars have ended up in ditches. Residents like Mike Edge say it’s crucial to still travel with caution.
“We have big trucks out here in the northern part of the county, but they slide too,” Edge said. “Nothing handles ice. I think the county did a nice job.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said because the region is so vast residents could see completely different elements where they live.
“We expect the full gamut today from sleet and ice down south to maybe a foot of snow up in Norrisville near the [PA] state line,” Glassman said.
Areas west of the I-95 corridor saw more snow than the rest of the county.
— Rachael Cardin (@RachaelCardin) December 16, 2020
When the snow started falling this morning, it sent many residents to the hardware store for supplies.
“These last couple days have just been absolutely crazy,” said Ray Mikkonen, a manager at ACE Hardware. “We’ve been selling ice melt, shovels scrapers things like that.”
Business owners said they have been keeping an eye on ACE as a way of knowing when to prepare.
Heather Rockhill owns a business in the same strip.
“Kind of reading them to see what was going to be going on today,” said Rockhill. “As they were stock piling the salt and shovels out yesterday, I kind of knew we may be in for something.”
Ron Novak of Fallston had to grab bags of pellets for his wood stove
“It’s fine,” Novak said. “I love snow so it doesn’t freak me out and the roads have been salted so it’s easy to get by right now.”
But everyone is his family is working inside Wednesday.
“I have one in college and two other people working from home so four people all online right now,” Novak added.
Howard County’s Bureau of Highways echoed other officials and said if you don’t need to be on the roads, stay home. If you have to drive, take your time, stay alert and make sure to drive with your headlights on to improve your visibility.
.@HoCoGov Bureau of Highways is URGING #HoCoMD, if you do not need to be on the road today, pls stay home to allow room for our plow trucks to do their job. If you must be out, pls drive slow, take your time, stay alert & drive w/ your headlights on to improve visibility. https://t.co/8pRL4pQ5Wk
— Howard County Gov't (@HoCoGov) December 16, 2020
Frederick County officials reported seeing several crashes there Wednesday afternoon.
FPD is responding to several crashes in the city. We’re asking all drivers to stay off the roads to allow snow crews to finish clearing the roads.
— Frederick Police (@Fred_MD_Police) December 16, 2020
Here’s a look at the snow around the state:
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) December 16, 2020
— Linh Bui WJZ (@LinhBuiWJZ) December 16, 2020
— Marty Bass WJZ (@MartyBassWJZ) December 16, 2020
Continue to follow md511.org for the latest road conditions, travel alerts and where snow emergency plans are in effect.