Ice storm snarls traffic Shore accident is fatal

January 28, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Whoever first said "better late than never" clearly was not talking about ice storms.

The freezing rain, sleet and snow that had been expected to wreak havoc during yesterday's morning rush hour came in the evening instead. The result was traffic gridlock.

A mistlike freezing drizzle fell for much of the day across Maryland, but a predicted rise in temperatures that had been expected to bring a change to rain was stalled to the south.

The sleet and freezing rain intensified by midafternoon, and so did the problems -- including a fatal traffic accident on the Eastern Shore.

State police at Easton said details about the fatality on icy Route 16 in Caroline County were not immediately available and that every available trooper from the barracks was on duty handling accident calls.

"We've got more accidents than we have troopers -- and we've got two shifts out," Cpl. Roger L. Layton said, adding that there were also far fewer tow trucks than there were wrecked cars waiting to be removed from roadsides.

"We've had worried calls about people who are 2 1/2 hours overdue," the corporal said, adding that the drive from Easton to nearby St. Michaels was taking two hours or more because of accidents. "We're trying to get to the ones that have injury," he said.

The emergency room at the Easton Memorial Hospital was put on disaster status for about two hours. At least 27 people were treated there for injuries related to the weather, a spokeswoman said.

In Baltimore, a sports car headed west on Liberty Heights Avenue hit a patch of ice shortly after 3 p.m., and struck a bus, a car and two pedestrians. Police said four people were taken to Sinai Hospital, including the 25-year-old driver of the sports car. There were no major injuries, and none of the 45 people on the bus required medical attention, said Northwestern District Officer Kevin Scott.

During the evening rush hour, traffic moved slowly on the Jones Falls Expressway and the Baltimore Beltway, which may have minimized serious collisions.

"Luckily, everyone is going pretty slow," said Valerie E. Burnette, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration. "Things are going well under the conditions -- slushy, icy, wet, basically a miserable evening."

The SHA -- which announced Wednesday that it was already more than $2 million in the red on the budget for winter storms -- said that about 1,100 workers and 700 pieces of equipment were trying to keep roads from icing last night.

In Harford County yesterday, schools opened two hours late for the third consecutive day and the seventh time this year. Morning kindergarten classes were canceled for the 15th time since the winter break ended Jan. 3, and afternoon kindergarten was also called off as a precaution.

Students in Harford County have had only three full days of classes in 1994, having lost eight days to weather closings.

The school system there could be opening late again today, with the National Weather Service predicting that temperatures might not get above freezing in Harford -- or other areas north and west of Baltimore -- before sunrise.

The outlook was a little different for the city and sections to the south and east, where forecasts called for an earlier changeover to rain.

Weather Service forecaster Amet Figueroa said the storm could have been more severe, particularly yesterday morning, but that "it looks like the main body of moisture went on south of us."

When the moisture began increasing, so did the temperature -- but not rapidly enough to prevent the ice storm.

The day's lowest temperatures were recorded in midmorning -- 16 in the city and 19 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. By 11 p.m., temperatures had climbed to the upper 20s.

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