County still digging blizzard took one life

March 16, 1993|By Bill Talbott and Amy Miller | Bill Talbott and Amy Miller,Staff Writers

The Blizzard of 1993 claimed a life in Carroll County while residents and government employees attempted to dig out from the largest March snow in the county since 1960.

County officials decided last night to close schools again today.

State police said Richard Lee Phelps, 55, of Manchester, suffered a heart attack while he tried to dislodge his new 1993 Yamaha snowmobile from a snowdrift Sunday. He died despite the efforts of a local doctor and the crew of a county medic unit, who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the scene, police reported yesterday.

Mr. Phelps, of the 2700 block of Ebbvale Road, was riding the snowmobile in a field along Route 30 north of Manchester when the vehicle apparently became stuck in a snowdrift about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

A passing motorist, Milton Herman of Manchester, saw the victim attempting to dislodge the snowmobile and stopped to help just before Mr. Phelps collapsed.

Dr. Timothy K. McNelly, also of Manchester, saw the incident while driving on Route 30. He stopped and started CPR on the victim until the medic crew arrived from Lineboro.

State police said the Maryland National Guard, using a HUMV vehicle, took a trooper to Mr. Phelps' home to get the victim's wife, Doris, so she could be taken to Carroll County General Hospital.

Mr. Phelps was pronounced dead at the hospital later.

A hospital spokeswoman said the facility's doctors and staff remained busy yesterday treating dozens of people who were injured in falls and sledding accidents.

"At least seven persons suffering from chest pains after shoveling snow were brought to the hospital on Monday and at least 20 were treated for falls," spokeswoman Gill Chamblin said.

Seven people also were taken to the hospital Sunday complaining of chest pains.

"The accident room also saw many sledding victims with everything from contusions to broken bones. The emergency room treated 39 injured people by 5 p.m. and expected another 40 before midnight," Ms. Chamblin said.

A state police helicopter also was called yesterday afternoon to transport someone injured in a sledding accident at Western Maryland College. Information about the patient was not available last night.

Road crews around the county continued the snow cleanup yesterday.

County and state road crews were trying to clear secondary roads and re-plow areas covered by drifts, while town crews concentrated on plowing roads in developments and removing snow from in-town parking areas.

Benton Watson, chief of the county Bureau of Roads Operations, said only the northwest section of the county should have roads closed this morning.

"We're further ahead than I expected," he said, guessing that 80 percent to 85 percent of the county roads are passable. "We were telling people [Sunday] it would be two to three days to get everything open.

"The roads aren't bare and there is one-way traffic in some places, but people can get out and go."

A county employee for 20 years, Mr. Watson said he'd never seen a snowfall that demanded more effort to clean up.

"The single largest problem was just a massive amount of snow," he said. "It wasn't so much the snowfall as where the wind put it."

The wind that blew across the county's large, open areas pushed the snow into drifts that could only be removed by front-end loaders, Mr. Watson said.

Drifts up to six and seven feet deep were observed around the county.

"The massive amount of snow in some places makes it very slow going," Mr. Watson said. "There's so much, you can't push it with the truck and you can't push it with the grader, so you have to get in there with a loader and dump it over the bank."

County crews used 52 pieces of Carroll's equipment and rented about 15 more over the past three days to clean away the snow, Mr. Watson said.

William Hyde, Carroll's assistant superintendent of administration, said many school driveways, parking lots and sidewalks were still covered with ice and snow. He said the schools may ask county officials for help in clearing those areas.

Total snowfall of 16 to 19 inches was reported in the county.

Larry Myers in Westminster said he recorded 16.7 inches of snow over the three-day period, with a peak wind velocity of 66 mph.

RTC "It didn't beat the Blizzard of '83," he said. "But it was the biggest March snowfall since 1960. It was a powerful storm, no doubt about it."

In 1960, about 25 inches fell in a 24-hour period, Mr. Myers said.

According to Bob Miller of Millers, the northern part of the county received 17 inches of snow with a peak wind of 54 mph.

An observer in Manchester recorded 19 inches of snow, while one in Mount Airy measured 18 inches.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Myers said the total snowfall for the year is about 50 inches, the second largest they have recorded. The two have been weather observers for at least 14 years.

During the winter of 1986-1987, Carroll County received about 60 inches of snow, they said.

"Hopefully, for everyone's sake, we won't get another storm and [this season] will stay in second place," Mr. Miller said.

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