A day to walk in midroad, unless you ski BLIZZARD OF 1996

January 08, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF Larry Carson, Mike Connelly, JoAnna Daemmrich, Donna R. Engle, Ellen Gamerman, Peter Hermann, Shirley Leung, Ann LoLordo, Dan Morse, Jim Preston and Jean Thompson contributed to this article.

The Blizzard of 1996 found Marylanders, who panic at the thought of a couple of inches of snow, trying to deal with a deluge yesterday. Many just stayed at home. Others managed to get around, whether by bus, four-wheel-drive vehicle, sled, skis or a good pair of snow boots. Much of the city shut down as an eerie sense of quiet settled. People who ventured out walked into the middle of the road, the only place to get decent footing. Any store that was open seemed to have a steady stream of customers, especially if it sold milk, bread, toilet paper or rented videos. Everyone seemed to find his own way to cope.

*

MTA driver Levern Singletary, 48, can't recall a time in his 14 years of service that it took two hours to drive 50 feet. That's how long his No. 3 bus -- and eight passengers -- remained stranded by ice and snow on the steep Charles Street hill in front of the Peabody Conservatory.

They were stuck, but they were resourceful. Abdul Smith, a 13-year-old passenger from West Baltimore, bounded to the front of the bus -- with his snow shovel. Let's try, the passengers nodded.

Jazzmun Parker, 21, borrowed the kid's shovel, zipped his silver parka and stepped outside into a knee-high drift. For almost 30 minutes he dug and panted and sniffled and sweated. Young Smith took his turn, then tagged along to give Mr. Parker advice.

It took another full hour and liberal amounts of groaning for MTA supervisors Bud Cole and John Kelly to dig and coax the bus off the hill. But the job would have taken longer without Abdul there to help: the supervisors had to borrow his shovel to finish the job.

And wouldn't you know it -- just when the bus crested the hill at the Washington Monument circle, along came a city plow.

*

Several top police commanders had an easy time getting around the city during yesterday's storm, thanks to drug dealers.

Police routinely confiscate vehicles from drug suspects, and the police commissioner, his top spokesman and two commanders were all in four-wheel-drive vehicles taken during the city's war on narcotics.

"I do want to thank the local drug dealers," said Col. Ronald L. Daniel, chief of the neighborhood patrol bureau. "Their four-wheel-drive trucks work great in the snow."

Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said he "thanks them as well."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had his own four-wheel-drive in which to get around. Several months ago he swapped one of his official Lincoln Town Cars for a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. "Now I look like a genius," he said.

*

When Mike Strzelecki saw the snow falling outside his window yesterday morning, he did what any self-respecting trail runner does: He got out and ran.

Mr. Strzelecki, 32, and his wife, Kelly, 31, jogged -- in sneakers -- from their South Baltimore home to the Inner Harbor and back through Federal Hill. The snow was blowing, but for the couple, who routinely run mega-mile hiking trails, it was no big deal.

"I have to admit, he did have to drag me out," Mrs. Strzelecki said. "I heard 16 degrees and I thought, 'No, I don't want to do this.' "

But her husband convinced her.

"We never get a nice snow like this. Usually we get slush and ice," said Mr. Strzelecki, who heads the Baltimore Happy Trails Running Club. "It was great."

*

Arthur Fried had been waiting for a significant snowfall ever since he moved to Federal Hill in April so he could engage in one of his favorite pastimes. Yesterday morning, he was cross-country skiing down Fort Avenue in South Baltimore so he could rent some videos at the local Blockbuster store. Then, it was more skiing, down to Fort McHenry and possibly over to the Inner Harbor.

"I just moved here from New York where I lived across from Central Park," Mr. Fried said. "Every time it snowed, I'd ski in the park. I was waiting for a chance to do it here."

*

It had been a day's hard night for a cabbie who stopped in at a convenience store in Catonsville for a little sustenance yesterday -- a cup of coffee, a hot dog and a National Enquirer -- before heading home.

The cabbie was out last night trying to scare up business in the Towson area and when he came back to Catonsville, he couldn't find a parking place on his street, so he kept driving around looking for fares. He drove around all night and managed to pick up only one fare, on U.S. 40 west for $12.

"There's very little business out there," said the 71-year-old taxi driver. So, after a long night, he was headed home. "If I get a parking space, I'm going in and check on the race results."

The cabbie did not want to give his name, saying his bosses wouldn't be happy if they knew he was driving in this weather.

*

In Columbia, even four-wheel-drive vehicles moved slowly, sliding up and down the hilly, unplowed streets. Kids seemed to love the snow, at least for awhile. On Thurso Court in Columbia, six children ran back and forth across the cul-de-sac. Allison Peltier, 11, said she didn't like the snow. But she wasn't going inside either.

"I can't go in," she said. "It's snowing."

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