Baltimore beefs up its winter weaponry Snow plan improvements set for first significant fall

November 14, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Still skittish about the freak snowstorms that unloaded 32 inches in one week and nearly paralyzed Baltimore last winter, public works officials are beefing up the city's winter arsenal with new computerized gadgets, weather stations and even the Internet to make getting around easier.

And, for the first time, residents who usually park on snow emergency routes can leave their cars at several designated parking lots and take a shuttle back home, courtesy of the city.

Department of Public Works Director George G. Balog, praised and criticized for his snow removal efforts last winter, said yesterday that all the new weaponry should be ready before the first significant snowfall.

"We have 33,000 blocks in the city," Balog said. "We can't clean all 33,000 blocks, but we will do the best we can."

New this winter will be up-to-the-minute snow and road condition reports on the city's cable channel, snow-melting chemicals that work better than salt alone, smaller equipment so side streets can be cleaned and a citizens guide for snow emergencies.

Four stations have been set up in different parts of the city to measure the street temperature. If it is below freezing, public works will know to add snow-melting chemicals. If the ground is above freezing, that may not be needed.

Balog said workers had to make educated guesses last winter on whether to add chemicals.

Workers also will have computerized maps to guide snowplows to streets that need attention. And there will be an Internet web page to provide information.

Balog said yesterday that the cost for improvements will come out of the city's $1.3 million snow budget. Last winter's unusually large snowfall cost the city about $3 million, he said.

Balog unveiled details of his plan to members of the City Council's Policy and Planning, and Judiciary committees. Last winter, some council members said Balog took too long to dig Baltimore out from under the snow.

Third District representative Joan Carter Conway and others introduced bills that called for an improved snow plan. Conway said yesterday that she thinks the plan is a good one, "but we have to actually see the plan implemented" before judging its effectiveness.

Balog was patted on the back by other council members for doing a good job in an extraordinary situation last winter. Robert Curran of the 3rd District said that with the new plan, "I hope Baltimoreans feel more at ease now with the coming snow season."

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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