Could It Be Spring?

February 20, 1994|By Robert Erlandson | Robert Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

A touch of spring swept across Baltimore yesterday, with the prognosis delightful at least through today.

RTC Brilliant sunshine lifted temperatures into the mid-60s, letting people throw off the weeks of cabin fever contracted from repeated poundings of ice and snow and subfreezing temperatures.

By contrast, exactly a week ago last night, major Baltimore-area highways were being closed because of accidents and severe icing. Ice-laden trees and broken power lines deprived tens of thousands of Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland residents of electricity.

But yesterday, "upbeat" was the word as Baltimore enjoyed its first really temperate Saturday in many weeks. The minispring break is forecast to continue through today, with partly sunny conditions and temperatures in the low- to mid-60s. Then, increasing cloudiness is expected to usher in showers, probably after midnight.

Yesterday was a time for the hard ice still clinging to lawns, sidewalks, patios, alleys and most side streets throughout the metropolitan area to retreat under the warm sun.

Throughout the area, sunglasses and sweat suits -- even occasional T-shirts and shorts -- were in evidence as strollers, joggers and bikers came out to exercise.

By midday, the Inner Harbor promenade bustled. Skateboarders rolled along Pratt Street. Water taxis and the Harbor Shuttle were busy ferrying people around. Horses pulling carriages clip-clopped along Pratt Street, and the bells of the trolley-style bus heralded a new season.

At the Baltimore Area Visitors Bureau kiosk, attendant Stephanie Hack said: "Saturday two weeks ago, we talked to nine people in four hours; today we've already talked to 150 in two hours."

Cars flowing into the Inner Harbor area via Interstate 395 -- many with Virginia, District of Columbia and Pennsylvania license plates -- crawled at times, slowed by construction of the Convention Center expansion and crowds trying to get to a popular crafts show in the Convention Center and Festival Hall.

Jeff and Cindy Yost, both high school teachers, drove over from Fairfax, Va., to the Inner Harbor "just to get Jordan out for a while." Jordan -- their 19-month-old son -- took in the busy promenade with all the seriousness a tot can muster and didn't comment.

His parents, however, said that, after nine snow days off from school, "We just wanted a break."

Ron Morgan, of the Harbor Shuttle, said four 41-passenger boats were carrying passengers. Two boats had worked Friday, "and they were jam-packed all day," he said, so the shuttle ran until 11 p.m. instead of the normal 6 p.m.

Mr. Morgan said he expected the same yesterday.

Pennsylvania State University students swarmed downtown, soliciting donations for the Four Diamonds Fund, a student-run charity.

They -- and PSU students collecting in other cities -- represented schoolmates who were "spending 48 hours locked in a room marathon-dancing," said student James Hartwell of Gaithersburg.

Last year, he said, students raised more than $1 million to aid children being treated for cancer at the Hershey Medical Center. The dancers can stop only after the collectors return by 6 p.m. today.

"It's very, very big at Penn State," he said.

Meanwhile, at the Baltimore Zoo, open again after days of being closed by ice and snow, people began arriving early, and most of the animals came out to see them.

Lions and tigers basked in the sun, birds stretched their wings and ducks paddled in their ponds. Elephants, rhinos and zebras remained indoors, however, because of the continuing danger of them slipping on ice and breaking bones, said Jean Bochnowski of the zoo staff.

In Towson, the springlike weather allowed Leo Robb Jr., 40, of Hillen Road, Towson, to work outside in a T-shirt, as he paid a personal price of the Big Freeze.

Mr. Robb was digging through chunks of frozen earth and ice left from Friday's excavation along his driveway to replace the collapsed, frozen drainpipe that had caused several weeks of basement flooding.

In general, it seemed fair to say everyone was happy with yesterday's weather, but National Weather Service forecaster Amet Figueroa had a reminder of reality.

"Spring is not here yet," he said from his Baltimore-Washington International Airport office. Some seasonal weather lies ahead, with daytime temperatures for most of this week expected to be in the 40s, dropping into the 20s and low 30s at night, he said.

Take heart, spring is just one month away. The vernal equinox will occur at 3:28 p.m. March 20.

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