Snow will top off the cruel ice and frigid temperatures across Maryland

January 20, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer Staff writers Robert Hilson Jr., Melody Simmons and Laura Lippman contributed to this article.

Marylanders have been chilled by frozen water pipes, power outages and icy roads in one of the worst cold spells of the century, and 2 to 4 inches of snow are expected today -- meaning life in the cold will continue for several more days.

Shortly after 1 a.m. today, snow began falling in the Baltimore-metropolitan area and immediately stuck to frozen streets and roads, making travel for light pre-dawn traffic a bit tricky.

Salt and sand truck crews that had been out all day Wednesday trying to melt the ice and provide some traction to vehicles remained on duty overnight in preparation for the morning rush hour.

Area police feared the overnight snow would only make a bad situation worse.

"Its the brutal sub-freezing temperature that is making everything difficult," said a city policeman from the Central District.

Downtown Baltimore's temperature fell to 4 below zero yesterday morning, just 3 degrees away from the all-time city low set Feb. 9, 1934. Area authorities were besieged with thousands of phone calls from worried residents.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service expect a high of about 15 today along with up to 4 inches of snow in the area. Temperatures will remain in the 20s, teens and single digits throughout most of the weekend, and relief -- if it could be called that -- is expected Mon

day, when the temperature may hit a high in the low 40s.

"That's what we're looking forward to. Get out your suntan oil," said Dick Diener, a National Weather Service forecaster at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Temperatures dropped to 20 below zero in Cumberland yesterday. Elsewhere, it was 8 below in Easton, 6 below in Salisbury, and 8 below in Westminster and Bel Air, the weather service and state police reported.

The bitter cold triggered another round of school closings today in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Anne Arundel County school officials yesterday announced that

schools will be closed today and tomorrow.

Baltimore city and county schools are closed today as school officials ponder whether to close them tomorrow.

Howard County schools are closed today and will be closed Friday because of a previously scheduled staff development day.

Carroll and Harford county schools also are closed today.

Meanwhile, weather-related problems abounded yesterday in Baltimore, which recorded a high of 6 degrees. The city water department received 1,000 calls per hour for service problems. The city switchboard also got thousands of calls from citizens asking about school closings, trash pickup and salt-truck availability.

By 6:30 p.m., the AAA was telling motorists with car trouble that it was swamped with so many calls that help could not be sent before midnight.

The Maryland Emergency Management Administration was in a stand-by mode yesterday. "We're monitoring the situation very closely, keeping a close eye on the weather and staying in touch with the power companies," said spokeswoman Lisa Albin.

No fatalities were reported by area police agencies, although numerous minor accidents and disabled cars clogged some area roadways, state police in Pikesville reported. And in Howard County, a Columbia homeowner's effort to thaw indoor frozen pipes with a torch ended in $95,000 in damage yesterday after flames ignited in his attic, fire and rescue officials said.

Police urged caution on area roads they described as icy, treacherous and difficult to maintain in freezing weather.

"The salt really didn't do any good, because the temperatures never got up high enough," said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a Baltimore County police spokesman. Salt won't melt ice when the temperature hovers near zero.

About 300 Baltimore County workers using 160 salt trucks ran out of salt yesterday and were scrambling to get an emergency shipment of 25 truckloads last night. Fire officials in that county had so many medic calls to respond to that they asked the county's 33 volunteer fire companies to be on emergency standby to help transport patients.

Cold weather also had a chilling effect on a Baltimore County murder trial. A mistrial was declared for Richard Dean White, charged in the stabbing deaths of his estranged wife and her 75-year-old mother.

The jury had been told the trial would conclude this week, but because jurors are excused when public schools are closed, the timetable became unrealistic. Circuit Judge J. William Hinkel granted a motion for mistrial from the defense, which feared the jurors might resent their longer service.

Homeless shelters throughout the area were packed with people seeking refuge. Health Care for the Homeless, an outreach program in shelters and missions in Baltimore, reported the weather has brought a steady increase in cold-related illnesses such as frostbite and hypothermia.

"I just wait and see who's not going to make it this year," said Ridge Pilcher, a registered nurse and coordinator of the program.

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