A winter to remember Historic snowfall: A fond farewell to Maryland's whitest winter on record.

March 20, 1996

AT 3:03 this morning, we bade farewell to the Winter of '96.

Most Marylanders are happy to do so, a few scattered winter-philes and masochists aside. One fitting salute might be to stick your hand beneath your chin, if you're of average height, and look down. From your hand to the ground (if you're standing) measures roughly the total accumulation of snow we've cursed and marveled at this season: 62.5 inches through yesterday. In a field where weather fluctuations are measured in fractions of an inch, the 1995-'96 snowfall threw a Mike Tyson-haymaker at the previous mark, 51.4 inches, set in 1963-64.

This was the winter that crushed snow-removal budgets; made TV celebrities of public works directors; spurred sales of four-wheel drive vehicles, shaved days from the school calendar. One rainy runoff made a mess of tiny Port Deposit on the Susquehanna River.

It is inconclusive as to whether historically snow-averse Marylanders were steeled by this winter. The State Police report 30 percent fewer traffic deaths so far in 1996 compared to the same period last year (98 vs. 122), likely due to people staying home in the harshest weather.

Yet grocers reported no mellowing of milk and toilet paper

consumption. Landover-based Giant Food has been in business 60 years, but never enjoyed a better day than Jan. 6 when a forecast-fed frenzy led consumers to do three days' worth of shopping in one. Not a crumb remained in bread aisles, every Guernsey was wrung dry. "If I can get it to snow in July ..." a Giant spokesman sighed.

Years from now, folks will remember how they spent the blizzard of Jan. 7-8, when two feet of snow shuttered the Northeast. Less dramatic, but impressive in its own right, was the persistence of the season, from the November snows that buried autumn's leaves before they could be bagged, to the swirling Arctic air that apparently intends to rattle around Oriole Park the early part of baseball season. Winter has become the houseguest that refuses to leave. The arrival of the vernal equinox on the calendar, though, assures us time is on our side.

Pub Date: 3/20/96

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