Thaw here, but power's out

February 14, 1994|By Eric Siegel and Donna E. Boller | Eric Siegel and Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writers Staff writers Mike Farabaugh, Kerry O'Rourke and Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

Utilities and residents in Southern Maryland and on the Eastern Shore continued to struggle yesterday with widespread power outages caused by falling tree limbs weighed down by ice, even as the start of a meltdown helped air and road travel return to near-normal.

But thawing temperatures did not come in time to prevent three highway deaths on icy roads in Howard and Montgomery counties, and last night two people died in Baltimore when a car slammed into the back of a salt truck on the Jones Falls Expressway.

The accidents raised the number of traffic-related fatalities since Wednesday to six.

Occasional sunshine and temperatures in the 40s also did not avert early announcements of school closings today in Anne Arundel, Talbot, Caroline, Kent, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.

Carol Parham, acting school superintendent, blamed Arundel's closing on secondary streets and school buses. "We've got to de-ice our buses. All the ice that's accumulated on top of the vehicles could fly off, posing a danger to the bus driver and other motorists," she said.

In Baltimore, main streets were cleared of snow and ice, and three-quarters of the city's side streets had been plowed, said George G. Balog, director of public works. But he predicted this morning's rush hour would be slowed by parked cars and piles of plowed snow in some traffic lanes.

The mercury reached 46 degrees in Baltimore and 41 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday. Forecasts called for sunshine and temperatures in the mid-40s through Friday.

"The spell has finally been broken," said Amet Figueroa, a National Weather Service forecaster at BWI.

But temperatures were expected to dip into the 20s overnight, causing leftover moisture to freeze and creating slippery conditions on roads and sidewalks.

Of greater concern to power companies trying to make repairs was the forecast calling for winds of 15 to 20 mph. Utility companies and emergency managers serving the hardest-hit counties of Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert in Southern Maryland and Dorchester, Talbot and Caroline on the Eastern Shore were bracing for even more power outages.

They said winds threatened to reverse the results of an intensive daylong effort to restore power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Work crews had come from as far away as Indiana and North Carolina to assist area power companies.

Despite those efforts, an estimated 32,500 Maryland customers of regional utility companies remained without power late yesterday.

The Delmarva Power & Light Co. said 18,500 Eastern Shore customers in Maryland and Delaware were without power last night, an increase of about 7,000 from Saturday night. "We've got a bona fide mess on our hands," said a company spokesman, Jay Mason.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. began yesterday with 5,200 customers in southern Anne Arundel and northern Calvert counties without electricity -- and 200 work crews out. Late yesterday, there were 11,000 customers without power, said a spokeswoman, Peggy Mulloy.

Residents in some hard-hit areas had been without power since Wednesday morning.

One of those, Alberta Jones of Huntingtown in Calvert County, remained in her home with her three grown sons and four grandchildren. "We're surviving," she said. "We have a gas stove and a wood stove. We listen to the battery radio or go outside and play in the snow."

Others, however, left their homes to stay with friends and relatives or went to emergency shelters in the most devastated areas of Southern Maryland and the Shore.

In Caroline County, 125 residents spent the night in two shelters -- the highest count since the facilities were opened Wednesday, according to Bryan C. Ebling, the county emergency management director.

'Back to normal'

At BWI, where some airlines canceled flights Friday and which had flight delays because of problems throughout much of the Northeast on Saturday, all three runways were clear, and things were "pretty much back to normal," said a spokeswoman,

Adrienne Walker-Pittman.

State and county highway officials reported that main roads were in good shape yesterday and secondary roads were improving.

In Carroll County, weary highway crews went home yesterday afternoon. They left behind a recording saying: "Due to the extended hours our department has worked in the recent storm, our offices are temporarily closed."

The condition of the roads was in marked contrast to Saturday evening, when freezing drizzle forced temporary closings of several major highways and caused dozens of accidents.

But the worst accident occurred about 7:45 last night when a car ran into the rear of a city salt truck parked, straddling the partially snow-blocked northbound shoulder of the JFX near the Mount Royal Avenue entrance ramp.

Truck was parked

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