Building site turned into a snow dump Construction set for April after mounds melt away

January 15, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

It's not a mountain, not a slope for sledders and not a winter wonderland, this pile of snow at the former site of Lafayette Courts in East Baltimore.

City crews have turned the 21.5-acre lot into a dump for the tons of snow left by the blizzard and storms that followed last week.

They still were dumping there late yesterday afternoon at what is first and foremost a construction site. Orange flags pock the blinding-white landscape, marking hazards -- exposed brick storm drains, deep manholes, thick metal cable and debris left when the buildings were demolished in August.

Here, snow removal is choreographed as if by the sorcerer's apprentice in Walt Disney's "Fantasia." Dodging pits that threaten tires, a caravan of dump trucks wends through the slush toward the center of the widening snow valley.

Waiting for the trucks is Thomas Hennigan, 44, master of this dumping ground. City Hall's gold-topped dome is visible just a few blocks away.

"If we don't push it back, there'd be nowhere to put more," shouts Mr. Hennigan, 44, of Baltimore from his perch in the padded driver's seat atop a roaring Caterpillar bulldozer.

Every push shores up another snow wall, some 12 feet tall.

Mr. Hennigan usually works at the city dump, where, he says, bulldozer work is "dusty." Here, he sees his breath as he opens the door to help a visitor climb aboard. Snow labor has been around the clock since the blizzard hit eight days ago: his shift is 10 a.m. to midnight, and by late last week he was well into overtime hours.

He waves to Joshua Johnson, who is on the ground directing trucks toward the growing mounds of snow.

"The plan is to keep making room for the snow, but not to build any mountains, because they wouldn't melt in time for construction to begin here in April," says Mr. Johnson, 38, an employee of the Housing Authority of Baltimore.

The Housing Authority plans to build townhouses on the site of the 40-year-old high-rise development that was home to 806 families.

From Mr. Johnson's vantage point, this is important work, poignant for him because he grew up on this site. He didn't want to see Lafayette Courts come down and says, "this looks so strange."

All that remains is debris and dangerous, well-deep holes -- which he must mark to protect truck and bulldozer drivers.

The drivers' cheery calls and waves break the monotony of snow, snow, snow.

Some of their vehicles are personalized: A brown-and-yellow truck dumps a load and turns away, revealing a hand-painted farewell on its rear door: "How You Like Me Now?"

A red truck, driven by David McCutcheon, 47, owner-operator of a trucking firm based in Pumphrey in Anne Arundel County, a contractor for the city, is hauling snow from Fells Point.

He's proud of his work: He's helping citizens get to work, get to hospitals, get home to families.

"Everybody's got to work their way through this. We'll get through -- the thing is to have some patience," he says.

"I put in 40 hours in two days," says Bruce Coursey, 44, arriving with snow from Little Italy in his Allied Contractors dump truck.

He grins and revs his engine once more before heading out again into the drifts downtown.

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