Unyielding winter slaps area again Maryland awakes to a powdery snowfall

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

Marylanders chilled by frozen water pipes, power outages and icy roads in one of the worst cold spells of the century awoke today to more cold -- and snow.

Shortly after 1 a.m. today, snow began falling in the metropolitan area and immediately stuck to already frozen streets and roads, making early-morning travel tricky.

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

City water crews were working this morning to fix a sizable main break that occurred about 7 o'clock last night in the 3400 block of Chesterfield Ave. near Mannosota Ave.

Thomas A. Bernard, who lives nearby, said the break "just lifted everything up around it."

"There's a crater 20 feet deep and at least 10 feet wide," he said. "A car near the hole had to be tied to a tree to prevent it from sliding into the crater, and most neighbors are without water."

At least 10 water mains broke overnight in the city and in Baltimore County, leaving customers with no water service or with little pressure. The run-off turned to ice.

Work crews were dispatched, but a spokeswoman for the city water department was unable to say when repairs could be made.

National Weather Service forecasters said the high today should be about 15. Up to 4 inches of snow were expected to fall today.

By 5 a.m. today, three inches of snow had fallen at Baltimore Washington International Airport, where the temperature was 5 degrees. The airport closed from 5:30 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. today to clear ice and snow from the runways.

Carol Riley, a spokeswoman for BWI, said de-icing procedures on all planes would continue throughout the day. Many early flights were delayed. "But we're getting back to normal," she said.

Downtown Baltimore's temperature fell to 4 below zero yesterday morning, just 3 degrees from the all-time city low set Feb. 9, 1934. Also yesterday, it was 5 below zero at the airport, breaking the record of 5 degrees, set in 1976.

Temperatures will remain in the 20s, teens and single digits through most of the weekend. Relief -- if it could be called that -- is expected Monday, when the temperature may hit a high in the low 40s.

Temperatures dropped to 20 below zero in Cumberland yesterday. 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 tomorrow because of a previously scheduled staff development day.

Carroll and Harford county schools also are closed today.

Meanwhile, weather-related problems abounded yesterday in pTC Baltimore, which recorded a high of 6 degrees. The city water department received 1,000 calls an 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 local office of the American Automobile Association 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. "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 roads, state police in Pikesville reported.

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, which they described as icy and difficult to maintain.

"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 is 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 that they asked the county's 33 volunteer fire companies to be on emergency stand-by to help transport patients.

Homeless shelters throughout the area were packed. Health Care for the Homeless, an outreach program in shelters and missions in Baltimore, reported that the weather has brought a steady increase in 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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