This winter has its act down cold: Another storm is waiting in the wings It's icy, sunny, foggy it's just 'weird'

January 29, 1994|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer Staff writers Peter Hermann, Suzanne Loudermilk, John Rivera and Alisa Samuels contributed to this article.

The weather gods put on the kind of crazy quilt show yesterday morning that Ed Sullivan made famous: a little opera, a little juggling, a talking mouse.

Weird, but something for every taste.

Ice underfoot, pouring rain and fog overhead, potholes big enough to close the Jones Falls Expressway. There was a bit of snow in the western mountains and the threat of an afternoon thunderstorm around Baltimore, where the sun shone briefly at midday. There was also the parked car that followed its owner to work.

"Weird weather, definitely," said National Weather Service meteorologist Fred Davis, a man usually inclined toward restraint. "You can even use 'wacko.' I think it's driving everybody wacko as well."

They were having trouble making sense of it yesterday morning and early afternoon at the weather station at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Mr. Davis said. Cold air here, warm air there, sleet and a little snow to the west, rain and ground fog to the south and east. At 9 a.m. it was 60 in Salisbury, 34 in Baltimore, 30 in Washington.

After a respite of sunshine today, forecasters say, there is a possibility of snow tomorrow -- up to 4 inches. But storm clouds might head farther south, meaning the Baltimore area could miss the storm altogether, according to an 11:30 p.m. Weather Service update.

Even in Maryland, where sharp variations in weather from one end of the state to the other are not uncommon, yesterday morning was odd.

"When you have a contrasting situation, it's very difficult to describe that situation," Mr. Davis said.

No, not difficult. It's weird.

What else is there to say when one must dispense with even the most basic assumptions. Such as that when one parks one's car, it will stay put.

Steve Ash, known as Stash, the overnight disc jockey at WIYY-FM, figured that was a safe bet when he parked his Ford Probe in the icy, sloping lot on Television Hill in Baltimore about 6 a.m. and walked into the building for a meeting. Imagine his dismay when he turned around to see the car sliding toward him from behind.

Russ Mottla, the station's program director, said about 30 cars slid sideways. Asked about the damage, he said, "Not a whole lot. It was mostly just the awesome sight of cars migrating sideward."

And speaking of migration, the station's chief engineer had to drive clear to Westminster to find rock salt for the lot.

That's probably because people all over Maryland have found themselves auditioning for any number of Winter Olympics events.

"Trying to get to my car from my front door was an adventure," said Cecil Bray of Columbia, the Howard County deputy chief administrator. "At one time, I thought about getting on my hands and knees. I had no traction at all."

Even members of the National Football League hierarchy weren't immune. Walter Lynch, the Washington Redskins project manager who is working on the team's proposed move to Maryland, was late to a meeting yesterday morning with Anne Arundel County officials.

Mr. Lynch said he slipped and fell twice on icy Annapolis streets while carrying a large map of the proposed stadium site in Laurel. He later displayed the map, apologizing because it was dripping wet.

Police reported many minor accidents across the state, and hospital emergency rooms saw another surge in the number of patients injured in falls.

"Doctors and nurses commented that it looked like it was more dangerous walking than driving," said F. John Walker Jr., spokesman for Howard County General Hospital.

"Most people fell going to and from their cars."

Between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. yesterday, about 40 patients with weather-related injuries showed up for treatment at the emergency room, Mr. Walker said.

In Harford County, police closed Route 7 for several hours at Bynum Run as water crested over the road just north of Abingdon. Similar conditions prompted county police to place barricades across Cool Branch Road off Route 136 north of Churchville.

The Jones Falls Expressway in Baltimore was closed for about 30 minutes at noon as a crew repaired two potholes. They were shallow but wide, about 2 feet across, said Vanessa Pyatt, spokeswoman for the city Public Works Department.

Ms. Pyatt said the city has been repairing about 1,000 potholes a day since Monday. The average is about 150 a day.

But then, the bouts of quick freezes and thaws the past few days have been, well, odd.

"It almost seems like the unusual weather is becoming usual," Mr. Davis said.

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