Winter throws 1-2-3 punch at area

February 11, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin and Peter Jensen | David Michael Ettlin and Peter Jensen,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers Richard Irwin and Fred Rasmussen contributed to this story.

The snow, sleet and freezing rain that began falling in the

metropolitan area late last night was expected to continue all day today and late into the night, continuing to make walking, driving and just about everything else challenging.

"It's snowing and sleeting right now but will probably end later today as a snow, sleet and freezing rain mixture with accumulations somewhere near 4 to 8 inches," said National Weather Service meterologist Fred Davis.

The one-two-three punch of the mixed mess pressed already busy road crews into action throughout the state, spreading salt and abrasives on main arteries.

Every available dump truck and utility truck and their drivers were mobilized.

Early today, five dump trucks with snow plows attached pushed snow and ice aside as they headed north on the Jones Falls Expressway from the Inner Harbor. They were followed by a handful of grateful motorists.

"It's the worst of all situations out there," said a state police sergeant at the Golden Ring barracks.

Nearly every police agency in the state ordered officers in patrol cars to maintain their positions and to respond only to emergencies.

Despite the efforts of road crews, the police were not looking forward to dealing with motorists. "Any motorist that hits the road today risks being involved in an accident," said a Baltimore County policeman.

"At this time, there are no major acccidents and all roads are open but

travel is slow," said Lt. James Henderson of the Baltimore City Police Department.

"There isn't much traffic moving and the roads are snow covered out here," said State Trooper Jeffrey Hartzler of the Westminster Barracks.

"The roads are a disaster, especially the side roads, said Trooper D. Terveer of the Bel Air Barracks.

Baltimore County Police reported that roads are snow-covered with no major accidents.

USAir suspended its service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport until 5 p.m. today. All other carriers suspended service two hours.

As the latest winter storm began moving across Maryland, state and school officials worried yesterday about a critical shortage of salt for highways and another day without classes for students.

The storm could be the worst this winter, with some forecasts of up to half a foot of snow and ice for today's 11th anniversary of the 22.8-inch Blizzard of '83.

Light snow and sleet spread across metropolitan Baltimore between 9:30 and 11 o'clock last night, with the storm arriving before many had chipped away the remains of this year's fifth ice storm. Scores sought hospital treatment yesterday.

Janice Lachance, an official of the federal Office of Personnel Management in Washington, said only essential government services would be operating in the Washington area today. About 350,000 civilian workers were affected by the storm.

The weather also forced the closing of schools today in the city and in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, Carroll, Howard, Charles, Caroline, Queen Anne's, St. Mary's and Kent counties.

Montgomery County government offices also closed today.

Harford County recorded its 12th day lost to weather this school year, topping the winter of 1983.

Baltimore Gas and Electric said about 6,400 customers -- most of them in the Annapolis area and in southern Anne Arundel County -- were without power overnight and early today because of ice-covered tree limbs falling on power lines. Service was expected to be restored later today.

The National Weather Service predicted 1 to 3 inches would be on the ground by morning across much of the Eastern Shore, 2 to 5 inches at most locations west of the Chesapeake Bay and more snow likely before an expected changeover to sleet and freezing rain.

Weather service forecaster Ken Shaver said, "Precautions should be taken to protect life and property, and all unnecessary travel should be curtailed."

The storm warnings produced a rush to area grocery stores last night.

"You can't even get a cart," said Rob Schunck, a customer at the Eastpoint Metro Food Market.

"What are they calling for -- 20 feet?" asked an incredulous clerk, Sandy Worthington. "People must think they're never going out again."

State Highway Administration officials expressed concern that major roads would be worse than motorists have encountered so far this winter.

Workers began mixing salt in a 4-to-1 ratio with abrasives, including sand, cinders and stone dust, yesterday to extend the supply. The agency had on hand less than one-tenth of its usual 200,000-ton inventory of salt -- with a typical ice storm requiring about 20,000 tons.

Around the state, highway crews were gearing up for bad weather -- facing shortages of salt and strain on workers from battling the quick succession of storms.

"The employees are tired, there's no doubt about it," said George G. Balog, Baltimore's public works director, who had workers plowing and salting the city's 82 snow routes.

Mr. Balog said the city needs 800 to 1,000 tons of salt a day to keep roads passable, and had more than 2,000 tons on hand yesterday, with 4,000 more scheduled for delivery today.

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