Ice tightens grip on Md.

February 10, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writer

Marylanders took another beating from the weather yesterday as a continuing ice storm disrupted travel, knocked out electrical power and forced school systems to shut down again.

Across the state, hundreds of accidents kept the police and towing companies on the move as public works crews on overtime duty plowed, salted and sanded major routes.

"An ice storm is worse than a snowstorm," said Westminster's city streets superintendent, Donald A. Gross. "You've got to keep fighting it all the time. There's no letup unless the sun comes out."

Warmer air expected to arrive from the south and bring a change to rain instead stalled, then was pushed back by a more powerful surge of cold air. The results anticipated for today are lower temperatures, only a cameo appearance by the sun, and then a return of snow, sleet and freezing rain.

Accidents yesterday forced periodic closings of sections of Interstates 70 and 95, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the Severn River Bridge. Roads that seemed only wet to motorists suddenly turned icy, sending cars spinning into guardrails or each other.

Red and blue flashing emergency lights were everywhere, it seemed.

A sergeant at the Golden Ring state police barracks was too busy to talk about the accidents. "I'm sending troopers out as fast as I can get them unhooked from the previous accident," Sgt. Sam Washington said.

The problems included an 11-vehicle chain-reaction crash on I-95 at the Beltway, near Middle River, about 12:30 p.m., and another 11-vehicle tangle on eastbound I-70 at the Beltway's inner loop -- all blamed on freezing rain.

On northbound I-95 near the Winters Run bridge in Edgewood, a tractor-trailer struck a guardrail and turned onto its side, spilling more than 130 gallons of diesel fuel as its tanks ruptured. The driver appeared to have minor injuries, authorities said.

The accidents have kept body-and-fender shops busy. But Daniel J. Hicks, owner of the Baltimore Body Shop on Sisson Street, a few skids away from the Jones Falls Expressway, expected the boom to come in the spring.

"There's a lot of small dents that people aren't fixing," he said. "The only things we're fixing are cars that are really hard-hit and have to be towed in. There is a backlog on insurance companies estimating them. The wait has gone from three days to six days to get started, the insurance guys are so backed up."

More than 50 people were treated at Sinai Hospital's emergency room yesterday for injuries related to falls on the ice. Johns Hopkins reported treating at least 15 for weather-related injuries from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Howard County General received 20 patients from falls and three others from ice-related auto accidents from midnight to 4 p.m. yesterday.

"We anticipated more than this," said John Walker, a spokesman for Howard County General. "I guess people learned it's better to stay indoors in icy conditions."

The ice storm's second day made another dent in area salt supplies.

"We're running out of materials," said James M. Irvin, Howard's public works director. "We only have enough to do the roads one more time. If this continues, we're going to have real problems. We're right on the edge."

Jay Nave, administrative assistant in the Carroll County Bureau of Highways, said workers were spreading "anti-skid," a mixture of salt and stone dust, to give motorists some traction.

He said a barge loaded with 30,000 tons of road salt arrived at the port of Baltimore Tuesday but that the supplier had orders for 120,000 tons to fill. "Nobody's going to get a full delivery," he said.

Baltimore's public works director, George G. Balog, said the battle against snow and ice since Dec. 23 had cost the city about $1.7 million -- much of it for the purchase of 25,000 tons of salt that had been spread on the roads through Tuesday.

Though the work has been a strain on the road crews, Mr. Balog said, public appreciation has helped his department get along.

"We're all tired, but the employees are in good spirits," Mr. Balog said. "They're proud of what they're doing. People recognize their good work, and that makes them work harder."

School systems throughout metropolitan Baltimore were closed because of icy roads -- and most were facing the prospect of shortened spring breaks or extending the school year in June to make up for the lost time. State law requires public school students to attend classes for 180 days a year.

For Harford County, which had set aside four days for weather-related closings in the school calendar, yesterday was a region-high 10th day lost to winter. It has already cost students and teachers their scheduled holidays for Presidents Day and spring break, and an extension of classes to June 10.

"The parking lots were like skating rinks," said Donald R. Morrison, a spokesman for the Harford schools.

Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County schools will be closed again today, officials said.

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