When it Snows, it Pours

January 24, 1994

Last week's blast of ice, snow and below-freezing temperatures would have been unprecedented at any time in Howard County history. But coming, as it did, at the beginning of 1994, only added more woe to an already woebegone year.

The cost of snow removal has exceeded this year's budgeted allotment, and will force the county to dip into its contingency fund. Coupled with other unanticipated setbacks, including the cleanup at three landfills, the costs of coping with unforeseen catastrophe are swiftly mounting into the millions.

By last Friday, Public Works Director James Irvin declared county roads in "relatively good shape" after days of nearly round-the-clock work on ice-and snow-covered arteries. Mr. Irvin lamented the difficulty in making secondary roads passable due to the ice and frigid temperatures. But the magnitude of the situation, which became as much an energy crisis as a transportation one, was lost on few. Residents, by and large, reacted with patience.

By the end of last week, Public Works had exceeded its budget for snow removal by about $150,000 -- add that to the $25 million the county will need to clean up three contaminated landfills.

While the added cost of snow removal will be drawn from a $1.7 million contingency fund, the landfill problems will impact on the county's capital and operating budgets for years to come.

Six county schools also suffered damage after pipes froze and broke. Among those were three of the county's newest buildings, Burleigh Manor, Mayfield Woods and Mount View middle schools. The repair costs at those schools has not been determined, but the fact that they happened in new facilities is discomforting.

PTC Meanwhile, Howard County General Hospital reported handling more than 100 weather-related injuries by Thursday. Most involved cuts and broken wrists from auto accidents and falls on the ice.

There was a dividend in all this, however, and it was incalculable. The county weathered the crisis without major mishap, in large part because of the countless numbers of people who cleared roads, manned emergency rooms, patrolled streets or simply showed kindness to a fellow citizen.

Under trying circumstances, the community fared well. Residents should be thankful -- and proud.

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