This story was updated at 4:22 p.m. Jan. 16, 2013.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the region throughout most of the day Thursday, and officials are urging residents to take the necessary precautions.
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid- to lower-30s, while snowfall may accumulate in excess of five inches at times, according to the National Weather Service.
The watch will remain in effect from late Thursday morning until 10 p.m. Thursday night, and meteorologists and state highway officials said drivers should be particularly mindful of the evening rush hour, when roads may see the most accumulation.
“That snowfall could melt, but there’s potential that at times during the late afternoon that snow could come down pretty moderately and accumulate kind of quickly,” said NWS meteorologist Steve Zubrick. “If you don’t have to be out late tomorrow or early afternoon and can adjust your schedule, it’s always good to be off the roads.”
Maryland State Highway Administration officials said they are prepared to deploy salt trucks Thursday morning and afternoon.
David Buck, a Maryland SHA spokesman, said they have the ability to move resources where there is the most accumulation, which he said may be needed since it appears the storm pattern may produce substantial snowfall in some areas and none in other areas.
“The main point I would make is to think long-term tomorrow,” he said. “It’s the cry wolf mentality. We just don’t want anybody to be that person who says I didn’t take it seriously and didn’t come up with an alternative plan.”
The Prince George’s Fire/EMS Department released safety tips for residents that include monitoring news reports for weather updates, staying indoors and having flashlights nearby in case of power outages.
Mark Brady, chief spokesman for the county fire/EMS department, said they have not mobilized any additional apparatus but are keeping a close eye on weather reports.
“Right now, we’re monitoring the weather situations and the command staff has been contacted to make sure they’re aware of the pending winter storm,” he said.
Other safety tips from the fire/EMS department include clearing snow from fire hydrants, keeping space heaters away from combustibles and wearing warm clothing if traveling outdoors.
Montgomery County’s storm operations center is set to activate at 8 a.m. Thursday to monitor weather conditions and forecasts, said Esther Bowring, a Montgomery County spokesperson.
“If the storm operations center is activated, normally then staff are put on 24/7 service,” Bowring said.
Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation’s Division of Highway Services will activate all crews and appropriate support contractors at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, she added in an email. The staff will report to the seven depots around the county stocked with the equipment best suited to help their surrounding areas, as well as items such as cots, food and clothes, Bowring said.
County mechanics who can take care of the equipment will also report to the depots at 6:30 a.m.
The highway services division is prepped for storms at all times, she said.
Montgomery County owns about 200 pieces of snow removal equipment, Bowring said, and can also call on contracted private operators. The county has about 40,000 tons of salt stocked up as well.
Staff Writer Lindsay Powers contributed to this report.