Three Feet of Snow Measured in Parts of Maryland
By Andrew R. Koch
In a typical winter, Baltimore averages just over 20 inches of snow, as measured at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport. Nearly 150 percent of that amount fell in one storm, and the Baltimore-Washington region is still struggling to get back to normal.
A powerful snowstorm, named Jonas by The Weather Channel, slammed much of the East, with significant snow falling from as far south as Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia to as far north as Boston. However, the storm dealt its biggest blow to the Mid-Atlantic. 29.2 inches of snow fell at BWI, the official National Weather Service observation site for Baltimore, between Jan. 22 and Jan. 24. That set the record for the most snow ever to fall on Baltimore in a single storm, breaking the old record of 26.8 inches set during a snowstorm in February 2003.
The storm began in Maryland just before the afternoon rush hour on Jan. 22. That afternoon, businesses, schools and government offices closed early. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan joined nine other states and Washington, D.C. in declaring a state of emergency. The emergency declaration enabled the mobilization of the state’s National Guard to respond to what was predicted to be a snowstorm of historic proportions. The storm brought gusty winds and whiteout conditions to much of the interior Mid-Atlantic, paralyzing all modes of travel. BWI, Reagan National and Dulles International Airports were closed all weekend long. Saturday, Jan. 23 brought the storm’s peak intensity. That’s when the heaviest snow bands and strongest winds hit the region. Those snow bands saw snowfall rates as high as two to three inches per hour, triggering episodes of the “thunder snow” phenomenon and making it impossible for snow plow drivers to keep streets and highways passable. Around 8:30 p.m., Gov. Hogan, using powers available to the Governor of Maryland in a state of emergency, ordered the closures of Interstate 70 between the Baltimore Beltway and Interstate 81 in Hagerstown, and Interstate 270 between the Capital Beltway and I-70 in Frederick after several tractor-trailers jackknifed and blocked the highways. The interstates remained closed until Sunday morning, Jan. 24 so the tractor-trailers could be towed off the interstates, and plow crews could make them passable.
Even well into the new week, Baltimore City and surrounding county governments are struggling to get things back to normal, as streets are still narrowed by large snow banks. The Jan. 27 morning rush hour was particularly bad, as drivers trying to get back to work for the first time since the snowstorm encountered snowplows and front-loaders trying to clear the snow, along with the narrowed streets. Many residents in neighborhoods throughout the Baltimore Metro area complained about their neighborhoods barely being plowed or not being plowed at all. Several tourist attractions in Baltimore, including the Maryland Zoo, Lexington Market and the American Visionary Art Museum, were closed. Many public school systems were closed through Wednesday, and the start of the spring semester at area universities, including the University of Baltimore, has been delayed. The university’s Office of Facilities Management said power went out in two campus buildings, and the heavy snow damaged part of the roof over the internet café on the top floor of the Academic Center. The storm even delayed move-in weekend at the University of Maryland-College Park.
With snowfall totals as high as 38 inches in the mountains of western Maryland, and just over 36 inches in Hagerstown and Montgomery County, some structures are simply unable to handle the weight of the snow. Porch collapses were reported at properties on 30th and 41st Streets in Baltimore City. According to media reports, at least three people died in Maryland after suffering heart attacks while shoveling.
While inland areas were hit hardest by the heavy snow, the snow changed to rain at the coast. Tropical storm to hurricane-force wind gusts whipped up battering waves that caused storm surge flooding and severe beach erosion from Assateague Island to the Delaware Bay and the Jersey Shore. The ocean breached the sand dunes in some areas of the Delaware coastal resort area, causing closures along some stretches of Coastal Highway. In Ocean City, all roads from U.S. Route 50 to the Inlet were closed due to flooding, and in New Jersey, residents along the coast said the flooding in the resort towns there was even worse than Superstorm Sandy.