Snowbound and stressed out Aggravation: After the third dumping of snow this week, people are feeling cramped and showing it.

Blizzard Of 1996

January 13, 1996|By Jim Haner and Scott Higham | Jim Haner and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers contributing to this article: Rafael Alvarez, Peter Hermann, Michael James, Ed Heard, Joe Mathews, Melissa Grace, Marilyn McCraven, Fred Rasmussen and Shanon D. Murray.

The fun has gone out of the Blizzard of '96.

Consider the plight of the Leventhal family -- mom, dad, four little kids, 3 feet of snowdrift at the door, street completely blocked, a virus loose in the house and then the oil runs out.

"You don't know what cabin fever is until you've spent three days locked up in a second-floor bedroom with a space heater and four sick kids after the temperature in your house drops to 18 degrees," says the dad, Avrohom Leventhal, 27, of snow-blocked Park Heights in far Northwest Baltimore. "It's been rough."

Wheezing and sneezing, a half-day away from stark-raving bonkers, the Leventhals finally broke out of the upstairs bedroom yesterday morning after convincing their fuel contractor to lug 20 gallons of oil down the unplowed length of Clarinth Road.

Throughout the region, the cries of the snowbound and stressed-out have drowned the neighborly cheer that greeted the early days of the avalanche. By yesterday afternoon, after the third dumping of snow in a week, very few people were laughing any more.

Myron Fleming, 32, was released from Good Samaritan Hospital with a stab wound to the face suffered in a fight over a parking space Wednesday morning. Baltimore police charged Mr. Fleming's neighbor Steven Elliott, 34, of 1931 Woodbourne Ave. in North Baltimore with battery.

"We're not sure who cleared out the parking space," said police Maj. Bert L. Shirey. "People are getting testy."

Dr. Sally Winston of the Anxiety and Stress Disorder Institute of Maryland says all the heaps and banks and drifts of snow force people together and seriously cramp their personal space. That kind of intimacy can be nice at first, but it gets tired after awhile.

"People are crowded and they are starting to squabble," Dr. Winston says.

Factor in the aggravation of empty store shelves and the disruption of comfortable habits, and you've got a volatile mix.

"There are a whole bunch of things going on," Dr. Winston says. "People are having trouble with time that isn't structured. They have already cleaned out their cutlery drawers. Now, they don't know what to do with themselves. A lot of them are feeling guilty about not getting to work, or angry that they can't get to work, or worried that they will be seen as being less motivated because they are not there."

In the voices

Mindy Amor, who manages the StressLine telephone service at Parents Anonymous of Maryland, says the strain is obvious in people's voices when they call for advice on how to keep from blowing their tops in a house full of stir-crazy tykes.

"You're with the kids and your stressed and you're running out of things to do," she says. "You've watched 'Cinderella' for the third time. This demands all sorts of creativity. Normally, we tell people who call to go out and see other adults, but in this weather, they're trapped; they don't have that option.

"I hear talk on TV of people being so nice," she says. "But I'm seeing the opposite, fistfights in supermarket lines."

And if parents are beginning to lose their cool, can children be far behind?

Amber Slavotinek, 13, of Howard County utters a sentiment that would have been almost unthinkable before the blizzard hit: "Even though my teachers can be a pain, I miss them."

Walking down Old Washington Boulevard in Elkridge with Amber was her friend Sara Watson, 12, who recounted how the girls held pajama parties to keep from getting bored, but even that had worn thin by yesterday.

:. "This snow came down too hard," Sara says.

Cruel blow to mourners

With aggravation rising everywhere, the weather has dealt a particularly cruel blow to those grieving the loss of a loved one.

The snow and frozen ground have shut down cemeteries, snarled funeral processions and kept families from getting to their distraught relatives, says Denny Xenakis, managing director of Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home in Rodgers Forge.

Such is the case with the family of Howard Clinton Jr., 58, a well-known West Baltimore barber who died Sunday at Sinai Hospital after a heart attack. Mr. Clinton's funeral is today, but no date has been set for his burial in snowed-over Garrisson Forest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills.

"This has really been tough on us," said Martena Clinton, Mr. Clinton's sister-in-law. "The only thing that's gotten us through is constant prayer."

Long-term repercussions

For others, the strain of the storm will continue for weeks, if not months. Backlogged orders are jamming warehouses.

Construction timetables are shot. Mail is piling up in U.S. Post Service depots.

Slogging through the slush on Monument Street in downtown Baltimore, mail carrier Jim Phillips, 55, says he's been getting chewed out by residents over late checks, lost magazines and wet mail.

"You just try to take it in stride, you know?" he says. "I figure a lot of people have been locked up for a few days now, and they got nobody else to blow off steam at except me."

Edward Cox, a FedEx deliverer, was having trouble being so philosophical about it.

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