Marylanders try to dig out from snow 3 deaths reported

western counties immobilized THE BLIZZARD OF 1993

March 15, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich and John Rivera | JoAnna Daemmrich and John Rivera,Staff Writers Staff writers Larry Carson, Peter Hermann, Mike Klingaman, Amy Miller, Sherrie Ruhl, Glenn Small and Norris West contributed to this report.

Marylanders began digging out from frozen snow drifts yesterday, as cleanup crews towed abandoned cars, stranded travelers camped out in crowded motels and many schoolchildren reveled at the prospect of a day off in the wake of the Blizzard of '93.

Rural areas west of the Baltimore area were immobilized by blowing snow on secondary roads -- with drifts as high as 15 feet reported by the state police in Carroll County. But many in metropolitan Baltimore were feeling every bit as trapped by icy streets or cars encased in the snow banks left by road crews' plows.

High winds that blustered across the state, toppling power lines and tangling telephone wires in tree limbs, died down by yesterday afternoon.

By evening, Interstates 70 and 68 in Western Maryland had reopened, but travel remained difficult on some highways west of Frederick. Nearly all major highways in neighboring Pennsylvania remained closed under a gubernatorial order.

Among the casualties of the storm in Maryland were a young man killed in an Anne Arundel County traffic accident, and a 42-year-old woman found dead on a snowy North Baltimore sidewalk -- possibly from a heart attack, police said.

A 60-year-old Carroll County man had a fatal heart attack while riding a snowmobile, and a Harford County man was seriously injured in a traffic accident on an icy road near Bel Air.

Airports and shopping malls reopened yesterday, but excursions were not a top priority for many.

For countless thousands of the snowbound, the task at hand was shoveling sidewalks and digging out cars. While adults scraped ice off windshields, children pelted each other with snowballs, tried to sculpt ice-encrusted snow into recognizable shapes or went sledding.

Some will have a second day to play or cope with the back-breaking work caused by the storm as cancellations were announced for every school system and most colleges in the Baltimore area. The city also halted trash pickups until tomorrow because of ice in side streets and alleys.

With all the inconvenience of life after a storm, it may have been hard to appreciate how bad it could have been. Much of the state was spared heavier snow and expected hurricane-force winds when the storm strayed inland instead of along the Atlantic coast.

The result was slightly warmer air that turned the snow into sleet or rain from Baltimore eastward, reducing accumulations and wind force.

Even so, gusts as strong as 52 mph were reported at 11 a.m. yesterday before tapering off to a steady 20 to 30 mph. With temperatures hovering in the 20s, the result was a teeth-chattering wind-chill effect well below zero.

The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said winds and wet, heavy snow combined to knock out power at various times Saturday and early yesterday to 132,000 of its approximately 1 million customers. By late last night, only five customers on Gent Road in Reisterstown lacked power.

Company spokesmen said potential disaster was averted because the high winds that were predicted for yesterday morning did not materialize for the most part -- and because many trees and limbs that might have caused trouble had been felled by a storm a week earlier.

The weekend blizzard brought more than snow to the Baltimore area. A Concorde landed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport after its 9 a.m. reopening. The craft, carrying 150 passengers, was unable to land on an icy runway at the still-closed Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia.

In Ocean City, the beaches showed little sign of erosions problems, and property damage appeared slight.

"We're in great shape. Ocean City can thank its lucky stars," said Nancy L. Howard, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources, adding that the shifting winds even might have added a bit of sand to the beach Saturday night.

Nearby resorts in Delaware had more downed trees and flooding.

Roads were generally clear on the Eastern Shore, which was soaked with heavy rain and sleet. In Southern Maryland, where about 10 inches of snow and rain fell, highways were slippery, with three inches of ice in spots.

But northern and western Maryland were pretty much shut down in the wake of the storm.

In the Harford County community of Forest Hill, Denise Blake said her family was trapped by 12-foot drifts. "We've been trying to dig ourselves out since yesterday but the wind just pushes the drifts back again."

Gov. William Donald Schaefer toured the Frederick and Hagerstown areas yesterday, and said state highway crews would help speed the clearing of county roads. He also said the state would earmark $100,000 to help out in Garrett and Allegany counties.

Hundreds of stranded motorists took refuge in crowded motels and temporary Red Cross shelters in Western Maryland because of the highway closings.

"We have a lobby full of people," said Kathy Pryor, a desk clerk at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Hagerstown. The restaurant ran out of food, she said.

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