Schaefer asks U.S. for help Western Md. still digging out from snow THE BLIZZARD OF 1993

March 16, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer asked President Clinton to declare a state of emergency in Maryland yesterday as highway crews and National Guard soldiers waged war on the snow that left many roads in the western counties still impassable.

"I have determined that the impact from the 'Blizzard of '93' is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capability of the state and affected local governments," Mr. Schaefer said, seeking nearly $19 million in aid.

From Frederick County west, Maryland Army National Guard soldiers activated under an earlier emegency declaration by Mr. Schaefer were helping local fire departments and police in emergency medical rescues and -- in Garrett County -- using dump trucks and front-end loaders to move the snow.

In the Baltimore metropolitan area, major roads were largely clear, but many secondary routes and side streets were ice-bound, and conditions that were deemed still hazardous prompted decisions to keep public schools closed today in Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Trash collection was to resume in the city today, but only in the front of homes because alleys remained snowbound.

Even though the precipitation had stopped falling by Sunday morning, sleet that mixed with snow through the late hours of the storm left many roads coated in seeming permafrost.

Many motorists found the morning-after task of digging cars free from frozen snow banks took an hour or longer.

But it was hard to imagine from the vantage point of the metropolitan area, or from the Eastern Shore, hit mostly by wind and heavy rain, the conditions north and west of Frederick County, with some roads buried four to five feet deep in fallen snow and drifts as high as houses.

In the Yellow Springs community north of Frederick, fire department paramedics had to walk a mile through drifts early yesterday to reach the home of Karen Wesdock, who was in the last hours of her second pregnancy when the call for help came in at 3:15 a.m.

With husband Pat videotaping the living room scene for posterity -- and perhaps the "Rescue 911" television show -- Frederick Independent Hose Co. medics Keith Bowerman, Troy Snider and Chris Kunkle strapped Mrs. Wesdock into a Stokes-basket litter and used it as a sled for the 40-minute trek over fields of sometimes thigh-high snow.

"We loaded up our patient and hoofed it out of there," Medic Bowerman said. "It was a pretty exhausting rescue, but it was exhilarating."

"I helped pull, too," said Mr. Wesdock, who trudged back home from the rescue vehicle to relieve the neighbor caring for the couple's daughter, Stephanie, 4.

Mrs. Wesdock arrived at Frederick Memorial Hospital at 5:49 a.m., and delivered Nicholas Andrew at 11:34 a.m. "It's been a very trying day," the father said in a telephone interview from the hospital room, over the healthy cries of his new son.

State emergency management officials toured Western Maryland by helicopter during the day, taking note of conditions and needs.

The worst conditions were found in Garrett County, where snow estimates from the latest storm ranged from 27 to 35 inches -- on top of a foot or more already on the ground from earlier storms. Garrett's snowfall for the year stood at 176 inches, according to State Highway Administration records at its Keysers Ridge garage.

State Forest and Parks rangers needed an assist from a National Guard Hemitt unit -- an eight-wheel-drive truck often used to carry missiles -- to "burrow" through 10-foot drifts and reach the home of a 29-year-old man with coronary symptoms near Table Rock Mountain. The 12-mile trip from Oakland yesterday morning took three hours, said Ranger Paul Durham.

In neighboring Allegany County, the well-named town of Frostburg got a reported 30 inches of snow in the weekend storm, on top of 20 inches already on the ground.

The snowpack could begin a meltdown today, with temperatures across Maryland expected to climb into the 40s and a chance of rain developing by tonight. "There's a potential for flooding," said Fred Davis, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

In his letter seeking help from President Clinton, the governor estimated the costs of the storm at slightly more than $25 million, with by far the biggest expense some $22,659,721 for snow removal. He also listed expenses of $512,401 for police and security activities, $112,007 for National Guard assistance, and $1,726,980 for miscellaneous storm-related activities.

The governor's storm coordinating officer, David McMillion, said the federal government would cover 75 percent of eligible expenses if the president declares a state of emergency exists in Maryland.

Mr. McMillion, returning last night from the tour in an Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, said: "We saw places where they had an unbelievable amount of snow . . . drifts that were 20 feet high."

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