Smartest travelers remained at home Day 1 was a loss and Day 2 might be just as bad

Blizzard Of 1996

January 08, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

The smartest travelers yesterday were those who went to the front door and stopped.

Airports were closed, buses were not running, taxicabs weren't going anywhere and navigating the roads was a nightmare.

"We're barely keeping up," said Carl Schmidt, chief of Baltimore County's division of highway maintenance. And today's rush hour might be even worse.

Today "looks like a lost day," said George Balog, director of Baltimore's Department of Public Works. "We recommend that everybody just stay home."

More than 1,200 trucks started plowing Baltimore-area roads around the clock early yesterday, and most roads departments weren't expecting to finish clearing the streets until tomorrow at the earliest.

"I'd be happy to go home Tuesday," said Benton Watson, chief of Carroll County's road operations. All of the state highways and interstates were kept open throughout the day, but just one lane was passable on many of them, said Dave Buck, spokesman for the State Highway Administration.

Most counties and the city required cars on the streets to be equipped with chains or snow tires. But the steady snow made most residential streets inaccessible by midafternoon.

"We're not even trying to hit the side streets until after it stops snowing," said Betty Dixon of the Anne Arundel County's Department of Public Works.

The snowy roads forced the Mass Transit Administration to end bus service at 3 p.m. yesterday, said MTA spokesman Anthony Brown.

Even taxicab companies shut down, except for rides from hospitals and hotels.

But the light rail system and Amtrak maintained Sunday operations with some delays.

Today, the Central Light Rail system will operate on its normal schedule, with trains starting a 6 a.m. The Metro subway line will operate only on its underground lines, between Mondawmin and Johns Hopkins Hospital. The stations between Owings Mills and Cold Spring Lane will be closed for snow removal.

MTA buses in Baltimore will start running at noon, depending on the storm. Officials say customers should expect delays. MARC trains will operate on a holiday schedule. The Camden line will not run.

In Anne Arundel, a jeep hit a snowplow last night on the Baltimore Beltway near Hollins Ferry Road in Linthicum, and three people were critically injured.

State police Lt. Raymond Grissett said the jeep's driver was going 55 mph -- too fast for the slick roads -- and slid into the truck. A man, his wife and their 1-year-old child were thrown from the car onto the road.

The adults were in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center; the child was in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Dozens of minor accidents and abandoned cars were reported.

At Maryland AAA, service was suspended to anyone except those stuck in the middle of roads, said Sharon Perry, public affairs manager. "When the snow stops and people start going out again, we'll be back out in force."

Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Washington's National and Dulles airports closed yesterday morning, canceling hundreds of flights and stranding thousands of travelers.

"We've been closed before for maybe two or three hours to get runways plowed, but never for a whole day," said Carol Riley, a spokeswoman at BWI.

"Our crews just can't keep up. As soon as a runway was plowed, it was covered again," she said.

The only two flights to leave BWI yesterday were charters to Mexico, she said.

Ms. Riley said BWI was hoping to reopen this afternoon. National expected to resume some flights by 7 a.m., and Dulles projected reopening at noon.

Hotels near BWI were nearly full with stranded travelers, but some chose to stick it out in the terminal.

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