Order of day: salt, shovels

February 10, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Richard Irwin and Greg Tasker contributed to this story.

The already weather-weary Baltimore area got more bad news today as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for tonight and tomorrow.

Forecasters predicted light snow later today with the snow increasing after midnight, possibly mixing with sleet by morning.

For tomorrow, the outlook is for freezing rain mixed with sleet and snow with highs near 30.

Low temperatures tonight in the 20s will reinforce already frozen surfaces.

Today's respite -- cloudy skies punctuated by sparse sunshine and a high of 28 degrees -- likely seemed all too brief for Baltimoreans who have battled storm after storm this winter and put up with hazardous driving -- and walking -- conditions.

What sunshine there was today was not expected to have much effect on the already icy streets that have witnessed uncounted injuries from falls as people, in many cases, crawl along icy pavements and lawns just to get into their homes after experiencing white-knuckle commuting in miserable driving conditions.

Yesterday, the state took another beating from the weather as an 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.

Partial service was restored today to part of the Central Light Rail Line, which had been knocked out of service yesterday by ice accumulating on its overhead power lines.

Mass Transit Administration officials said today that the line was operating between Timonium and Camden Yards, but, because of icing, buses would continue to shuttle light-rail passengers south of Camden Yards to the line's end in Linthicum.

"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 yesterday 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 brought today's are lower temperatures and only a cameo appearance by the sun.

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 Interstate 95 at the Beltway, near Middle River, about 12:30 p.m., and another 11-vehicle tangle on eastbound Interstate 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.

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