From the Vault: The Blizzard of 1996

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Excerpt from an article published on January 8, 1996

One of the biggest winter storms of the century slammed into Maryland yesterday, paralyzing the state with a blinding mix of fast-falling snow and ferocious winds that could turn this morning’s commute into a slow, agonizing crawl.

If there’s a commute at all.

Motorists were expected to face nearly 2 feet of powdery snow. Forecasters say the snow, driven by winds with gusts topping 30 mph, will make it tough — if not impossible — for plows to keep major highways clear before the first commuters venture out around dawn.

Deep, drifting snow could keep commuters from reaching their cars, never mind their jobs.

“The snow will return an hour after the plows leave,” said Richard Diener, a National Weather Service forecaster at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. “We have a massive, king-size gorilla on our hands.”

More snow is forecast to hit the region Thursday or Friday.

The Blizzard of 1996 struck states as far south as Kentucky and moved north to Philadelphia, Newark and New York. It closed Interstate 65 in Alabama, choked major highways on the East Coast with small mountains of drifting snow and stranded thousands of people caught in its wide, white path.

Forecasters say the blizzard dumped 2 inches of snow per hour on Baltimore yesterday, and it could wind up depositing about 18 inches by the time the system leaves Maryland today.

The blizzard came close to challenging the record in Baltimore, set in 1922 when 24.7 inches fell on the city. By 10 p.m., 14.8 inches had fallen at BWI.

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.