Cumberland Times-News

December 8, 2013

Snow, sleet, freezing rain coat tri-state region

Storm warning in effect through late Monday morning

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Tri-state area residents got a taste of an early winter Sunday when snow, sleet and freezing rain made for slippery travel.

Cumberland received 3 1/2 inches of snow by mid-afternoon that started shortly after 9 a.m., according to Tim Thomas, local observer for the National Weather Service.

It was 25 degrees when the snow began to fall and the temperature didn’t allow for much melting, said Thomas.

Traveling became hazardous early Sunday causing officials to enact the Snow Emergency Plan at 11 a.m. for Allegany and Garrett counties. The plan prohibits parking on roads and streets designated as snow emergency routes and requires the use of snow tires/chains or all-weather tires.

Snow removal efforts on Interstate 81 in Washington County were delayed for hours because of a chain-reaction accident involving more than 20 vehicles.

State police said the highway was closed in both directions for about three hours following the crash. It started around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, when a tractor-trailer ran into the median to avoid cars that had spun out. It was hit by another tractor-trailer that overturned and spilled its load. Several other tractor-trailers ran off the road and jackknifed as their drivers tried to avoid the crash.

Police did not report any life-threatening injuries as a result of the crashes. Several vehicles have been left in the median and won’t be removed until conditions improve.

After several accidents occurred on Sunday morning, Cumberland Police asked for all non-emergency vehicles to stay off the roadways until crews treated streets. The Maryland State Highway Adminstration also urged motorists to delay travel.

School systems in Mineral, Hampshire, Grant, Hardy and Morgan counties canceled Monday classes due to icy road conditions.

“SHA forces will continue to work into the evening and throughout the night,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters in a news release.

The snow changed into a wintry mix  by late afternoon in many areas.

“It’s a very complex system. We could get up to three tenths of an inch of ice from this,” said Thomas. “It could turn into a bigger mess than we already have.”

More than 2,000 trucks plowed and applied salt to state highways. In addition to plows and dump trucks, additional emergency traffic patrols were on duty to assist disabled vehicles and manage roadway incidents.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning from 8 a.m. Sunday to 10 a.m. Monday for Allegany and Mineral counties for 3 to 5 inches of snow changing over to sleet and freezing rain. Garrett County was under a warning until 6 a.m. Monday.

Freezing rain is expected on Monday before 10 a.m. and then temperatures are ex-pected to climb, reaching around 40 degrees, according to Thomas.

“That will give us a break and will provide a chance to get the roads back in shape,” said Thomas.  

After Monday, temperatures are expected to remain in 30s, according to Thomas. “It’s going to be a pretty chilly week,” he said.

In Mineral County, more than 5 inches of snow had fallen by 2 p.m. in Fort Ashby followed by a half-inch of sleet. Sleet and freezing rain were expected to continue through Monday morning and change over to rain around 9 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Motorists can log onto www.roads.maryland.gov and click the CHART icon for the latest road conditions.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.