Digging out from the ice proves a hazardous task

January 19, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Marylanders were chipping out yesterday from a paralyzing assault of dangerously low temperatures and ice.

Highway crews cleared major routes of snow and ice, but most secondary roads and side streets remained more suitable for figure skating than driving.

Hospital emergency rooms filled with orthopedic cases as hundreds of people battling to move frozen cars or simply walk down their slippery front steps suffered broken bones. Baltimore's Fire Department had to put extra ambulance crews on duty to keep pace with the mishaps.

The deaths of at least six people were linked to the weather, including that of 67-year-old Rebecca Shockley who apparently slipped on the ice outside her Baltimore home in the 600 block of E. 38th St. yesterday, police said.

In Harford County, two people died of apparent heart attacks yesterday while shoveling snow. Three traffic deaths Monday were attributed to icy roads, with fatal accidents on Interstate 95 in Harford County, Route 8 in Queen Anne's County and Hillen Road in Baltimore, authorities said.

Howard County General Hospital reported that at least 60 people had sought emergency treatment between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. from falls.

At Franklin Square Hospital in eastern Baltimore County, 23 people were treated by yesterday evening for ice-related injuries. "Broken wrists -- that seems to be the most frequent one here," said spokeswoman Jennifer Reynolds.

Every school system in the Baltimore metropolitan area was closed yesterday, and all announced they would remain closed today. Many colleges also announced closings, including the University of Maryland College Park -- delaying the start of what is loosely termed the spring semester.

Baltimore's trash collection was canceled for today because of hazardous roads.

The demand for public services far outstripped the supply.

In Baltimore, the snow emergency center logged 750 calls from 8 p.m. Monday to 11 a.m. yesterday requesting salt for icy roads, and 1,800 calls for other weather-related problems -- particularly broken water pipes.

Extreme cold complicated the task of ice removal, because salt is ineffective at temperatures below 20.

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, operations were shut down by 7:30 last night because of ice on the runways. Because salt compounds can damage aircraft, crews were using sand -- only to see it blown away by takeoffs.

Ice had also shut down the airport for 11 hours Monday night and yesterday morning.

Ice was even a problem on Maryland waterways. A ring of ice up to 4 inches thick has formed in shallow waters off the lower Chesapeake Bay in recent days, prompting use for the first time since 1989 of steel-hulled boats to keep channels open to Maryland's Smith Island and its Virginia neighbor, Tangier Island.

The ice was only going to get thicker last night as temperatures plunged to single digits, threatening century-old records. The mercury had fallen to 2 degrees in the city and 2 at the airport by 11 p.m., matching the city record for Jan. 18, set in 1893. Today's record of 6, set in 1904, was erased at the stroke of midnight.

But it felt even worse. The wind chill was 30 degrees below zero.

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