Storm gives many a long weekend


February 27, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer Staff Writers Ed Brandt, Glenn Small, Robert A. Erlandson, Frank J. Lynch, Roger Twigg, Kristine J. Antonelli and William Talbott contributed to this article.

A killer snow it wasn't.

Despite four days of hype from TV weathermen and the secret prayers of many, yesterday's lazy, daylong snowfall dropped only 2 to 4 inches of fluffy flakes across most of the Baltimore region, a bit more north and west of the city.

There were no traffic nightmares, no massive power outages and no reason to panic. But the decision-makers closed every public school system in the state anyway and sent thousands of area workers home early for a long weekend.

The holiday answered the prayers of hundreds of thousands of school children, many of whom took to the hills with sleds.

Twelve-year-old Elaine Seidl of Knollwood took her sister, Stephanie, 8, and her father, Ron, out in the steady snow to the 15th fairway at the Country Club of Maryland on Stevenson Lane.

They joined about 50 other children, some with their parents, who bounced down the bumpy hill on sleds, plastic boards, tubes or their rear ends. "After this we're going to build a big snowman on our front lawn," Elaine announced.

Private snowplow operators, who have had precious little business in recent years, also welcomed the snow.

"It gives me some extra income," said David Patton, 27, of Sykesville. He was in his pickup yesterday, scraping snow off a parking lot on York Road near the city line.

Highway crews got a jump on the storm and kept the main roads clear. Interstates and main roads were just wet. Local roads were often snow-covered, but passable.

"This storm was well advertised," said Dan Collins, a State Highway Administration spokesman.

A few fender-benders but no serious accidents were reported, and traffic, thanks to the many closings, was light.

However, around 7:30 a.m. yesterday, a state trooper narrowly missed death or injury. Sgt. Albert Liebno of the Pikesville barracks had stopped on Route 140 near Reisterstown to help a stranded motorist. Then, a passing truck sideswiped his patrol car and kept going.

Sergeant Liebno radioed for help. Another trooper stopped the trucker and ticketed him for leaving the scene of an accident and failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. The trucker, Oscar L. Wright, 43, of Roanoke, Va., told police he didn't realize he had hit anything. The patrol car was wrecked.

The light traffic meant a slow day for the AAA. Sharon Perry, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Maryland, said, "Calls were actually running slower than average, about 35 calls per hour" compared with 50 on an average day. "I guess people just decided to stay home and make it a three-day weekend," she said.

In the Bel Air area, shopping center lots were less than half full. Restaurants along Main Street suffered when the county implemented its "liberal leave" policy, which allows workers to go home at 1 p.m.

Though Anne Arundel County closed its schools to keep children safe at home, Nikki Huff, 13, and three of her friends spent some of their free time at Marley Station Mall. "We're just hanging out," she said.

Chasity Blankenship, 12, said, "When we get back, we'll go sleigh riding."

The snow had little effect on electrical service. "Brace yourself. We have 35 customers without power," said Art Slusark, spokesman for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

In Carroll County, two fire engines responding to a report of a house fire near Westminster got stuck on a snow-covered driveway. Firefighters carried buckets of salt from a county roads dump truck to get their truck unstuck.

Baltimore County offices stayed open, but employees were told they could go home if they wanted and charge the hours to leave time. The county courts closed at 1 p.m.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport reported 3 inches of snow; Columbia had 4 inches; Owings Mills had 5 inches; and 7 inches fell in Carroll County.

Yesterday's snow fell five days after a surprise storm Sunday dumped 4.5 inches of wet snow at BWI.

Fred Davis, chief meteorologist at BWI, said this was the first time since December 1989 that the area recorded two "heavy" snowfalls (4 inches or more) in a single week. The airport has logged 11.3 inches of snow this season. The 30-year seasonal average is 20.8 inches.

State road crews began salting and sanding hours before the first snowflake fell, making it harder for snow to accumulate. Roughly 1,700 state road workers, using about 1,100 snowplows and salt trucks, worked highways in most of Maryland's 23 counties, said Mr. Collins.

In the city, where 3 inches of snow fell, George G. Balog, director of public works, said the cleanup went so well crews started clearing secondary streets by noon.

In Baltimore County, 250 people using 140 snowplows and salt trucks began working on the county's 2,400 miles of secondary roads shortly after snow began falling about 3:30 a.m., said Gene Neff, public works director.

The work went well despite the loss of about 220 public works employees Feb. 12 in County Executive Roger B. Hayden's budget cuts.

This weekend's forecast calls for decreasing cloudiness and high temperatures in the 30s and 40s.

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