Icy misery returns after brief respite

January 27, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

With public works budgets strapped, school calendars disrupted and the public barely recovered from the January freeze, another dangerous dose of winter began icing over Maryland yesterday.

The National Weather Service said the light snow and glazed roads that had motorists skidding in many areas of the state last night were likely be a sneak preview for a slow and slippery morning rush.

The forecast was for sleet and freezing rain.

Fred Davis, chief meteorologist at the weather service's Baltimore-Washington International Airport office, said the icy precipitation should give way to rain by afternoon -- but the timing of the changeover depends on the critical factor of temperatures expected to rise only a few degrees above freezing.

"We're right on the old borderline again as far as temperatures and weather," Mr. Davis said.

The timing of the storm will not affect students in Anne Arundel County, who are scheduled for a two-day break between grading periods, but posed problems in other jurisdictions, where superintendents will face decisions on closings today.

Howard County school officials, for example, had already rescheduled high school mid-term exams to take place today and tomorrow.

In Harford County, icy weather has kept schools closed for eight days this season -- four more than are provided for in the school calendar -- and forced late openings six times this month.

"Even though schools have been closed or have opened late -- regrettable as that is -- we can't allow that to color our decision," said Harford schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison. "The No. 1 concern is the safety of the children."

Carroll County's school system has used all the "snow days" on its calendar, and its highways department has run out of salt.

Unable to arrange a salt delivery any time soon, the county is having trucks spread sand and powdered rock.

Baltimore County officials said they have been able to buy only 500 tons of salt per day from AKZO Chemicals, a national supplier, and obtained 2,700 tons of slag cinders on Tuesday. There was enough material on hand for one storm, they said.

The State Highway Administration said yesterday that plowing and salting ice and snow has left it awash in more than $2 million of red ink.

The agency had a budget of $12 million for fighting winter storms, but has already incurred costs exceeding $14 million.

SHA Administrator Hal Kassoff said he will dip into funds from his agency's operations budget to cover further problems, and make adjustments later.

So far, Mr. Kassoff said, SHA's storm costs include 116,300 "man hours worked," and the use of 111,000 tons of salt, 52 tons of calcium chloride to ensure salt effectiveness below 20 degrees, and 25,200 tons of abrasives.

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