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February 13, 2014

Snowstorm wallops region

Residents heed officials’ warnings to avoid travel

CUMBERLAND — At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, there were 11 inches of snow in Tim Thomas’ backyard in South Cumberland.

Thomas, an observer for the National Weather Service, expected another inch or two of white precipitation before the storm moved northeastward later in the day and away from Western Maryland.

“During the past two hours, there has been only .6-inch of snow,” Thomas said at mid-afternoon.

Thomas called it “good snowblower snow,” saying “you can groom it, blow it, shove it wherever you want.”

Cumberland’s temperature reached into the low 30s during the day.

Based upon the lack of calls for help, emergency responders in Allegany and Mineral counties said on Thursday morning they believe residents took to heart the requests to stay home and avoid travel in the heavy snow that blanketed the area.

“We haven’t had a call yet today,” said Keyser Fire Chief Taylor Stewart at noon. “And I haven’t heard anybody toned out in the county all morning. There was one medical call for Fountain.”

Allegany County’s 911 Center was equally quiet, according to a dispatcher who said tractor-trailers were having difficulty on Interstate 68 and state Route 51, but were making it through.

“We called the State Highway Administration to help a tanker truck stuck on the I-68 eastbound entrance ramp at Greene Street,” the dispatcher said.

Grant County took a heavy hit with 18 inches of snow by midday at Mount Storm. County emergency services and 911 director Peggy Alt said several tractor-trailers were hung up on Walkers Ridge on state Route 93 but otherwise there were no problems.

“We’re good here. It’s terribly deep but it’s light and fluffy. It’s easy to move,” Alt said. “We’ve just been real lucky. You can get around if you know how to drive.”

Thomas said a “little clipper” is expected Friday night and could be a “snowmaker, but not much.”

Next week, projected highs of 43 on Tuesday, 48 on Wednesday and 55 on Thursday could begin some snow melt, Thomas said.

With snow still falling at midday Thursday, storm totals in West Virginia included 19 inches in the Pendleton County community of Cherry Grove, 17 in Harman in Randolph County, 16 in Athens in Mercer County, and more than 14 inches in Capon Bridge, Craigsville, Marlinton and Ronceverte, according to the National Weather Service.

West Virginia State Police are asking residents to use the Department of Transportation’s 511 system to obtain information about road conditions.

State police spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous said the agency’s detachments are overwhelmed with calls about road conditions whenever a big winter storm hits.

Baylous said these calls tie up dispatchers who need to respond to emergency calls.

He also said the DOT has more information about road conditions than state police do.

The 511 system is available online at ww551.org and at WV511.org/Twitter. The system also can be accessed by telephone by dialing 511.

Late Wednesday, there were six car accidents in Cumberland, the last one taking place at midnight when a vehicle struck a porch at 527 North Centre St., according to Cumberland Police Capt. Greg Leake. A DUI arrest was made in that incident. As snow fell Thursday morning, officers assisted seven disabled vehicles in various parts of the Queen City.

Westernport Mayor Dan Laffey said portions of Johnson and Hammond streets were barricaded to traffic once city snowplows began sliding on the slippery surfaces Thursday morning.

“Praying for it to stop, but it is coming down as hard as ever. Real big flakes,” Laffey said at 1 p.m.

Maryland State Police canceled leave for patrol troopers and shuffled staff assignments so that an additional 150 troopers would be on the state’s highways Thursday.

The Maryland National Guard was activated and members were on the ground battling the weather in Frederick, Carroll, Charles and Harford counties as well as in Baltimore City.

Lt. Col. Charles Kohler said troops were on standby at the armory in Cumberland, but as of late morning had received no requests for assistance.

At 2:30 p.m., no power outages were being reported on the FirstEnergy Storm Center for far Western Maryland or the Potomac Highlands.

The lack of serious problems was reflected in Garrett County, where Emergency Management Director John Frank said the situation was being handled very well.

“Very few accidents and right now the wind isn’t bad,” Frank said at 3 p.m. Frank’s unofficial snow measurement was 16 inches.

About 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Allegany County called off public school attendance for Friday. Frostburg State University will open classes Friday at noon.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Easter experience

A visitor to The Experience Auto Tour watches actors portray a scene of Jesus healing a blind man at Central Assembly of God Church, 2020 Bedford St., Friday evening. The drive-through Easter program features eight scenes from the life of Christ, from the Nativity in Bethlehem to the Crucifixion. The program will be held again Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. The church’s Easter service will be held Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

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Luke Donald watches his shot off the eighth tee during the third round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., on Saturday.

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