Snow job

January 24, 1994

Congratulations, Maryland. You survived Frozen Hell Week.

Incapacitating cold, power outages, frozen precipitation of every variety, ice-glazed sidewalks -- the most recent "snow event," as some road crews called it, left residents looking dazed and exhausted. Never mind that Central Maryland is oddly phobic about snow. Last Monday's storm and the accompanying sub-Arctic temperatures were a bona fide weather ordeal -- a test for the hardiest lovers of winter and for the powers that be whose job it is to keep the world moving when nature gets nasty.

We can't judge how the former fared, but the powers that be, for the most part, did a pretty good job. Even on the worst days,

state road crews kept the major highways passable, if not clear. County crews toiled around the clock to make the arterial roads as safe as possible, given that removing the ice was a virtually impossible task. Police in Anne Arundel, for example, reported throughout the week that, with the obvious exception of back roads, the streets were in excellent shape given the circumstances, and they know better than anyone.

Some jurisdictions responded to the snow less well than others, however. Baltimore County seemed to have problems, even after the Hayden administration made adjustments in response to criticism it fielded last year for poor snow removal during the so-called Blizzard of '93. Many important county thoroughfares, including some in the county seat of Towson, were more suited to skating than driving as late as last Friday. And the county ran out of salt, space to store salt and the chemical additive that would have kept diesel trucks from breaking down. The lesson in Baltimore County is that Hayden budget cuts have removed dozens of valuable workers from the public works and highway departments, including supervisors who oversaw snow removal, and all the contingency plans imaginable can't make up for that.

By contrast, roads in nearby jurisdictions were in markedly better shape, from Anne Arundel to Carroll counties and even to Baltimore City. The fact is most of the Baltimore metropolitan area weathered the crisis without major mishap, in large part because of the countless numbers of people who cleared roads, staffed emergency rooms, patrolled streets or simply showed kindness to a fellow citizen.

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

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