Storm leaves plenty of work for snowplows

March 15, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

"The Blizzard of 1993" may have played havoc with Howard County residents' weekend plans and caused some cases of cabin fever, but few serious emergencies resulted from it, said county police, fire and public works officials yesterday.

The storm's aftershocks will provide for an extra day of sledding for county students. County schools are closed today. Administrative offices will be open.

At the Waterloo State Police barracks in Jessup, troopers reported a total of 14 inches of snow.

The biggest task for county personnel over the weekend was not responding to any major crisis but the flood of calls concerning unplowed streets.

"Calls have been coming in constantly," said James Irvin, county public works director, about 2 p.m. yesterday from the county's emergency operations center. "They're all from streets we haven't gotten to yet."

Mr. Irvin said county crews worked to clear streets from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and were back on the roads at 3 a.m. yesterday.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker rode along Saturday with one of the drivers for about three hours.

"It was very frustrating," Mr. Ecker said. "We were opening up the main roads and an hour later they would be covered again -- and that was before the major portion of the storm arrived."

Major county highways were passable by late Saturday night, Mr. Irvin said. All of the county's roads -- including side streets and cul de sacs -- were expected to be cleared by late yesterday afternoon.

The storm took a toll on the county's snow removal budget, which showed about a $100,000 deficit before the blizzard, Mr. Irvin said. It was too early to estimate the cost of the weekend's snow removal effort, he said.

"We will be substantially overbudget," he said. "This is very expensive. It's all overtime."

A desk officer with the Howard County Police said the department hadn't received any calls reporting road collisions or personal injuries during Saturday or yesterday as of about 2 p.m.

"The fact that the storm occurred on a Saturday helped," he said. "It was uneventful except for having snow on the roads."

But the police department was inundated with about 500 or more calls from people who wanted their streets plowed.

"It's ironic. Everyone that calls says that theirs is the only street that hasn't been plowed," he said.

Jack Blakely, communications supervisor for Howard County's Central Communications Office, which handles 911 calls, said both Saturday and yesterday had been "very quiet."

"Mostly we've been getting a lot of calls for roads to be plowed," he said. "When people call 911, they want everything."

Though there were few accidents on the roads, many families endured spills while sledding on any hill they could find.

Jack French, 45, and his two children, Shaina, 10, and Alex, 6, of the Village of Owen Brown in Columbia, tested the sledding yesterday afternoon at Lake Elkhorn when they found out their car wouldn't budge.

The sledding was a little too good, Mr. French said. On one early ride, Mr. French wound up about four feet from the lake hanging on to a tree. "It was a sheet of ice," he said. "That's the fastest it has ever been."

His children were not discouraged. They called the sledding "awesome."

About 8,100 power outages were reported in Howard County during the storm, said Art Slusark, director of information for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. By 4 p.m. Sunday only 15 homes were without power.

"The [Saturday] morning was frightful but the blizzard conditions never really materialized at night," said Mr. Slusark.

Grassroots, a non-profit group which operates a county crisis hotline and homeless shelter, also did not report increase in demand for shelter space.

The shelter received numerous calls offering donations, and one man driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle even brought by several bags of groceries during the height of the storm Saturday, said Donald Garrett, a residential counselor.

About 90 percent of the stores in The Mall in Columbia, which was closed all day Saturday, were open for business yesterday.

But customer traffic was down for a normal weekend day, said Rodney Renner, the Mall's vice president and general manager. Woodward & Lothrop, which had planned one of its biggest sales of the year for the weekend, is considering rescheduling, he said.

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