State digs out--from abandoned cars 'Mild' snow leads to slush and towing

December 29, 1990|By Rafael Alvarez

As anyone who had to drive during this week's snowstorm knows, Maryland motorists do odd things when snow hits the road.

But the automotive stunt that most puzzles transportation officials and tow operators is the decision to abandon vehicles just about anywhere, as hundreds of drivers did when 4 to 6 inches of snow began blanketing most of Maryland during evening rush hour Thursday.

"I've never seen so many abandoned cars in such a relatively mild snowstorm," William F. Zorzi Sr., a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Maryland, said yesterday.

The abandoned cars and trucks made it difficult for emergency vehicles to get to people who needed help, he said.

"I go way back in transportation, I'm talking 40 some years, and this was the worst -- in the middle of city streets, on the Beltway, on the interstates," he said. "These are obviously people who don't care. . . . They just get out of their car and walk away."

Baltimore towed from 75 to 100 cars abandoned on the Jones Falls Expressway to the big parking lot of the Polytechnic Institute-Western High School complex on Northern Parkway free charge.

Vehicles left downtown in the middle of the street or on snow emergency routes were towed to side streets.

David C. Williams, owner of Pikeway Towing in Parkville, said his company was doing the same work in northern Baltimore County, where Pikeway is under contract from the State Highway Administration when it snows.

"A lot of them just give up. . . . It's unfortunate when people abandontheir cars, especially during rush hour," said Mr. Williams, who said the state contracts with tow operators around the state.

"I'd say we towed up to 60 cars, mostly just moving them to the shoulder of the road so the plow trucks can get by."

Baltimore County police said they towed 16 cars after the storm hit. They said anyone who couldn't find his car should call police.

On the Baltimore Beltway near Essex, Rich Bumgarner was shoveling snow from barriers near an exit ramp. Most of the scores of cars that were left on the Beltway Thursday night had been towed away by the state and municipalities to allow snowplows to clear the roads, he said. "Last night, they were disabled, in ditches, spinning their wheels," Mr. Bumgarner said.

As the snow slowly melted into a soupy mess yesterday amid temperatures around freezing, people who own homes and cars hauled out the shovels, gloves and boots to dig out.

Mary Whay pulled her car out of the driveway of her Brooklyn home but had to shovel the walk to get it back in. "The snow is real wet," she said, hauling shovelfuls of the heavy, gray slush. "I would rather not have it. I'm not a snow person."

Across the street, David Schwink of David's Auto Body Repair said he expected a rash of car repairs early next week after motorists involved in fender benders brought their cars back home and gathered repair estimates for their insurance companies.

"It'll take about two or three days before they really do anything," Mr. Schwink said.

Travelers in Western Maryland found unhindered traffic yesterday except where motorists slowed to watch people digging out some of the dozens of cars buried along the shoulders by county road crews.

Dense fog had descended over Garrett County by yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't thick enough to obscure the bright snowsuits of skiers dotting the hillsides of ski resorts.

The fog moved through most of the state yesterday, according to National Weather Service forecasters at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, who predicted temperatures would climb through the weekend.

"The clouds didn't break up, so it didn't get as warm as we thought," said forecaster Robert L. Melrose. "But warm air will stay with us. We should get around 55 degrees [today] with calm winds."

By tomorrow, Mr. Melrose said, the temperature could be in the 60s, and the first snow of winter will be well on its way down storm drains.

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