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 cold 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 orthopedics 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 up with the mishaps, some of them children hurt while sledding.

The precise number of injuries -- or deaths -- statewide could not be determined. In Harford County, two people died of apparent heart attacks yesterday while shoveling snow. Three traffic deaths on Monday were attributed to icy roads, with fatal accidents on Interstate 95 in Harford County, Md. 8 in Queen Anne's County and Hillen Road in Baltimore, authorities said.

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

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

Every school system in the Baltimore metropolitan area was closed yesterday, and all but Carroll County's had announced by late in the day that they would remain closed today. The University of Maryland College Park also will be closed, delaying the start of what is loosely termed the spring semester.

Extreme cold made the task of ice removal all the more difficult, since salt is ineffective with temperatures below 20 degrees. 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 limited to using sand -- only to see it blown away by jet 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.

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