Snowplow or no plow? Watching, waiting: On a snowbound block in Oakenshawe, residents made the best of being immobilized while they hoped for help from the city.

January 14, 1996|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

From the 200 block of Homewood Terrace, if you look out the right window and crane your neck just so, cars can be seen

driving along University Parkway and Calvert Street.

For those snowbound on this narrow, one-block street of wide rowhouses just above Union Memorial Hospital in Oakenshawe -- where old-timers swear that a city snowplow hasn't appeared in

about 20 years -- the sight of moving cars a few hundred feet

away is nothing but a tease.

As week's end neared, Homewood Terrace didn't look much different from the way it did after 2 feet of snow began falling last Sunday -- except that any tire tracks bravely made during the week soon were covered Friday when a morning storm brought another half-foot of snow.

With each new day, you could hear people talking up and down the block in a mantra of resignation: It sure would be nice if a plow would come through.

And all of Harold Hackman's property taxes couldn't make one show up any more than he could stop the snow from falling.

"There's not a great deal I can do about it," said the 74-year-old retired salesman, who for seven days went outside only to drop letters in the corner mailbox.

Each day, The Sun showed up to see what the city would do.

*

Sunday afternoon, Jan. 7. Fourteen hours into a storm that began in Baltimore at 11:15 p.m. Saturday night. Flakes falling like a torrent of chicken feathers.

Evan Richardson, who lives near the middle of the block on the north side of the street, stays inside the entire day with her 4-month-old son, Wesley. Later in the week, Wesley will touch snow for the first time in his life. Her husband, David Clements, a physician on paternity leave, goes outside several times to shovel the walk in vain.

Ms. Richardson, a midwife who eventually will get to work at Harbor Hospital this week only through the kindness of a stranger volunteering a four-wheel drive, uses the time at home to make vegetable soup, bake bread and finally hang her marriage certificate in the dining room.

"Because we were snowed in, we spent time getting stuff done," she says.

Outside, all was still and pretty.

It continues to snow through Monday morning.

*

Monday, 6 p.m. The snow has stopped. A few shovels are cutting through 22.5 inches of snow to scrape against pavement. From all appearances, only one vehicle has made it away from Homewood Terrace: George Atkinson's Dodge pickup with chains on the tires.

'A great snow'

"As far as I know, I'm the only tracks in and out of here. I couldn't afford a four-wheel drive, so the chains were my $50 conversion package," says Mr. Atkinson, a native of Alaska who has lived in a whitewashed brick house on Homewood Terrace for four years with his wife and two children.

"This is actually a great snow -- light and fluffy, great for skiing. You only get a snow like this in Alaska maybe once a year."

His wife, Manhattan-raised research biologist Miye Schakne, is happy with life in Oakenshawe, despite the absence of snowplows during blizzards.

She says: "Even though we have no city services, we live on a nice street."

*

Tuesday, 9 a.m. The only sound heard on Homewood Terrace is a lone shoveler at the east end of the block. Of the two dozen or so cars parked on the street, only six appear to have moved at all.

"I haven't tried to move my cars yet," says John Roberts, a 49-year-old newspaper reporter turned emergency room doctor who lives near the east end of the street, near Guilford Terrace. "I might try, but I don't think we'll do it. The paper said the city is going to do the side streets, but they didn't say when."

The thrill of Dr. Robert's week has been chatting with the volunteer who showed up with a four-wheel drive Sunday night to take him to work at Franklin Square Hospital.

"She was a single mom on welfare, and it was just a nice stereotype-breaking ride," says Dr. Roberts. "We talked about her ideas for starting a business."

Back at home after a long shift of treating people with chest pains, he takes off his heavy coat to get more power into his shoveling and says, "I've lived here for four years and have never seen a snowplow. I don't expect to see one."

By 3 p.m., snow that will reach 4 inches has started to fall.

"I just fed the birds, and it's covered up already," says Morgan Mattingly, a 30-year resident of the street.

Perhaps the birds will find their own food, like the crows pecking through garbage bags a few blocks away on Calvert Street.

"A snowfall like this happens, and you realize who the boss is -- and it's not us," says Miye Schakne, home for the second day in a row with daughter Alicia, 12, and son Robert, 6. "There's no point in arguing with it. The world will not come to an end because we can't get to our jobs for a few days."

*

Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. Baltimore announces that all cars still parked on snow emergency routes will be towed and fined more than $200. There is no fear of that happening on Homewood Terrace, where some suspect they won't see their buried cars until the crocuses burst through the slush.

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