Outdoor workers endure with icy determination

January 19, 1994|By Scott Timberg | Scott Timberg,Staff Writer

While professionals curled up next to their fireplaces and school kids thanked their fates and popped in a video, some people braved yesterday's ice and snow more out of obligation than courage.

Whether it was digging graves, driving cabs, towing cars or patrolling the streets, workers were out yesterday despite the blustery weather.

"Most of the time, if you're doing something, it ain't that bad," said Keith Barnard, a groundskeeper at Woodlawn Cemetery, who recommends a good snowsuit, a ski mask and plenty of movement to battle the cold. "I think it's healthy, being out in the fresh air and all," said Mr. Barnard, who braved the -21 degree wind chill at 2 p.m.

He was shoveling sand on a patch of ice. "We're having a time with this ice. Snow's OK, 'cause you can move it. But you can't move this ice."

If moving ice was a problem for Mr. Barnard, getting around on it was a problem for area drivers, even professionals.

"Some of the drivers won't drive in this type of weather," said Preston Hagwood Jr., a Royal Cab Co. driver wearing a blue flannel jacket and a black wool cap. "It's up to the driver whether he wants to go out or not."

Mr. Hagwood, who has been driving a cab in Baltimore for 25 years, said he hasn't seen weather this bad since the blizzard last March.

While the town's largest cab company, Yellow Sun Cab, limited its service to medical emergencies and taking people back and forth from hospitals, Mr. Hagwood wasn't complaining.

"This is a good day to drive -- not a lot of cabs on the street, so I get more fares. Bad weather is good money for a cab anyway," Mr. Hagwood said. But will the extra money he made yesterday earn Mr. Hagwood a trip somewhere sunny?

"No," he said. " . . . I'll be payin' bills."

Like cab drivers, fast-food delivery drivers weren't trying to break any delivery-time records yesterday. Merter Akbay, manager of the Pizz-A-Boli's in Towson, said pizza orders took up to one hour to be delivered by his two drivers. He said that between noon and 1 p.m. yesterday, he had 70 orders to be delivered in the Towson area. "It was very hard to keep up. . . . Normally it takes our drivers a very short time to make a delivery within one mile, but today it took up to an hour because of the ice."

Most tow companies were booked more than they could deliver.

"He's backed up about 10 people," said Nancy Alt of Alt's Towing and Recovery in Westminster. She said it was impossible for the company's lone driver to help out many of the people who call. "The people don't have their driveways done. We can't get ** up it. You just slide."

Thomas Scott, of Aaron's Towing in East Baltimore, reported a slow morning. His company was hesitant to send trucks out since the workers heard stories of buses sliding down hills.

But inclement weather was no deterrent to the city's finest. The Baltimore City police worked a full staff yesterday -- two or three cops on foot in each of the city's nine districts. "Foot patrols haven't been pulled," said Sam Ringgold, police spokesman. "All officers did make it in today. We're at normal strength."

And how about the people who kept most of us warm in our homes and offices yesterday? Well, you know the one about the cobbler's children having no shoes. Baltimore Gas and Electric employees worked overtime to restore power to homes and offices that lost it. Between Monday night and yesterday afternoon, 32,000 customers lost power, two-thirds of them in Anne Arundel County.

"The ice'll get on tree branches, they'll fall on power lines," and those lines can easily break, cause a fuse to blow or short out a piece of equipment," said Peggy Mulloy, a spokeswoman for BG&E. She estimated that more than 300 of the company's employees had been working on power restoration. Field employees were busy repairing torn power lines or driving from house to house, office to office, fixing fuses or equipment, she said.

Woodlawn Cemetery workers know there are some situations that are impervious to Mother Nature's ill tempers. About a dozen members of the grounds crew were out working yesterday.

"We've got work to do," said Ethel Forrester, a secretary at McCully Funeral Home in South Baltimore. "I mean, death takes no holidays, so we've got to be in here regardless."

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