Western Md. gets waist-deep snow Region received 38 inches, atop 12 on the ground

December 13, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

Skiers and sledders frolicked in several feet of snow this weekend as Maryland's two westernmost counties dug out of their heaviest snowfall in recent memory.

By yesterday evening, most of Garrett and Allegany counties' primary and secondary roads were clear, snow emergencies had been lifted, and power had been restored to more than 100,000 customers from a storm that began before sunrise Thursday and ended early yesterday.

In an area that yawns at snow forecasts and measures accumulation in feet rather than inches, most interviewed yesterday said that this was the biggest snowfall they could remember in 10 years or more, although official figures weren't available yesterday from the National Weather Service.

The most commonly used estimate of depths was either 3 feet or "waist-deep" -- with drifts as high as 5 feet and more in places.

In some towns, there was nowhere to put the snow. Crews were preparing to bring in trucks yesterday afternoon to haul it out of Accident, Oakland and Grantsville, as well as others, and probably dump it outside town limits, said Doug Ellis, of the State Highway Administration facility at Keysers Ridge in Garrett County.

At the Wisp Ski Resort, where the heavy snow was a blessing, spokesman Mark Ruhe said, "A lot of our employees couldn't get to work."

The mountain got 38 inches of new snowfall on top of 12 inches on the ground, he said, for a total of 50 inches that was delighting some 4,000 to 5,000 skiers yesterday. "We're going to have good snow here till April," he said.

State police and highway crews weren't as thrilled by the ski enthusiasts as Mr. Ruhe. As soon as the flakes began to fall -- and roads became slick -- many people began running off the roads.

Similarly, deer-hunters were reluctant to give up the next-to-the-last day of rifle season in the state parks. Police said some hunters parked on the back roads, got snowed in and had to hike out.

A few hunters called the highway crew offices to give directions so the plows could clear a route for their vehicles -- to the amusement of crews who had been working 16-hour shifts and longer since the storm began Thursday.

There was one casualty: the winter commencement at Frostburg RTC State University, said spokeswoman Nancy Bross-Fregonara. Although parents were arriving from out of town, college officials decided Friday, with the interstate closed, to call off yesterday's formal ceremony.

"It was disappointing for the students, but we didn't want anyone risking their lives," she said. About two dozen of about 400 new graduates conducted an impromptu ceremony anyway, she said. All will be welcome to take part in May's commencement ceremonies.

At the dormitories, students who were trapped or who had to stay over for exams were out playing in the snow at 2 a.m. "like it was 10 o'clock," said Cheryl Watts, 22, of Linton Avenue in Baltimore.

At the McHenry barracks at Deep Creek Lake, State Police Cpl Gary Long said, "The roads are in real good shape," although many still were snow-covered. Interstate 68, which had been closed by the storm, reopened yesterday morning.

Some areas were using equipment from nearby coal mines, he said, because "the snow plows can't handle it, the weight and the depth."

The western counties were spared the high winds that struck the Baltimore metropolitan area and the East Coast, officials noted.

It was the wind that knocked out power to most of more than 100,000 homes across the state.

At 4:15 p.m. yesterday, service was restored to the last of almost 8,000 customers of Potomac Edison Co., which services Maryland counties from Howard, Carroll, Montgomery and westward, spokesman Earl Hargett said.

In the Baltimore area, where the storm front caused more rain than snow, Karl Neddenien, a spokesman for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said all power was restored to 99,500 customers by 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

Similarly, at the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Bob Melrose said, "The snow thing has become a nothing." The concern instead was flooding of the Monocacy River and others, he said. "All this melting snow has to go somewhere."

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