Cumberland Times-News

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December 19, 2012

Snow, gusting winds forecast for area

CUMBERLAND — The first official day of winter Friday may bring a real taste of seasonal weather with several inches of snow, gusting winds and wind chill readings in the single-digit range.

And, to no surprise, the higher elevations are expected to bear the brunt of the storm.

Accuweather meteorologist Paul Walker told the Times-News a winter storm will be moving into the area Thursday afternoon.

“The storm will be starting off with warmer temperatures and rain and then change into snow showers Thursday night and into Friday. There will be a few inches of snow and windy and colder with some pretty cold air moving in,” said Walker, who has been a professional weather forecaster for 35 years.

Six to 12 inches of snow could be expected in far Western Maryland and 3 to 6 inches in the lower elevations of the region.

The National Weather Service posted a winter storm watch for Garrett County and extreme western Allegany County for the period from Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon.

Tim Thomas, local observer of the National Weather Service, said, “This will be a wind-driven event and we will have snow showers but we don’t really expect any snow accumulations in Cumberland.”

But Frostburg and points west, the weather on the mountain may be much worse that the weather conditions in the valley.

The forecast also calls for wind gusts from 40 to 50 mph, temperatures with high readings in the lower 30s and upper 20s. Wind-chill readings are expected to hover in the 8- to 12-degree range.

“The coldest period will be Friday night into Saturday,” said Walker.

To the east, precipitation will begin as rain before colder temperatures bring flurries and a possible ground covering of snow into the weekend.

A winter storm watch posted Wednesday night by the National Weather Service for Thursday night through Saturday indicated snow could be heavy at times.

In Garrett County, public officials warned of possible power outages from the winter storm.

“The National Weather Service has upgraded the weekend weather event to a potential blizzard warning. Extremely high winds and heavy snow accumulations are expected from Thursday night through much of the weekend,” said Brad Frantz, director of the county’s emergency management and 911 operations, Wednesday morning.

“Significant power outages are a distinct possibility once again, especially with the many limbs and branches still hanging from Hurricane Sandy,” said Frantz.

A $350,000 special project being conducted by Potomac Edison throughout Garrett County has improved the power line system.

“While about 75 percent of Potomac Edison's Sandy post-storm repairs are complete, our crews prioritized the work and knocked out the most critical items first,” said PE spokesman Todd Meyers.

“As a result, the system is hardened and should be able to withstand the forecasted weather for Friday into Saturday.

“We are in far better shape in Garrett County than we would have been had we not implemented our $350,000 plan to reinforce the system and remove hazardous trees after Superstorm Sandy. We are confident that should translate into improved electric service reliability for our customers,” he said.

The Maryland State Highway Administration said Wednesday that all trucks are loaded with salt and plows are attached for “immediate deployment”’

Prestorm meetings were conducted at SHA facilities in LaVale and Keysers Ridge, and crews were scheduled to work 12-hour shifts once the agency’s winter storm operation begins.

The SHA said weather information and road conditions are available by calling  5-1-1 or log onto the md511.org. Travelers may visit www.maryland.gov and click CHART for latest information.

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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