Major snow, minor punch Year's biggest storm drops up to 8 inches all wet and heavy

'This is a piece of cake'

Partly sunny skies, highs in mid-30s today will hasten melting

February 09, 1997|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

The largest winter storm this season blanketed Maryland yesterday with up to 8 inches of snow in some areas, but its weekend arrival -- combined with memories of the crippling blizzard of January 1996 -- helped it seem manageable.

"Go back a year ago," said George G. Balog, Baltimore's public works director. "Then we had 32.6 inches of snow. Today we had 5 inches. During that blizzard, we used 15,000 tons of salt. Today we used 1,400. We've had 25 requests for service today. During the blizzard we were getting a thousand an hour.

"This is a piece of cake," Balog said.

There were few reports of accidents or power outages. Road crews said their work was a breeze.

And for children, the snow was simply perfect -- heavy, wet and ideal for rolling and sculpting into snow people, or packing down under sled runners, saucers and skis on area hills.

"This would be the biggest storm this year," said Dewey Walston of the National Weather Service, "but that's not saying much. There have been hardly any."

Last year's storm buried cars in their driveways and shut down shopping malls and even ski resorts.

Yesterday, snow shovels and bags of salt that had gone largely untouched this season got their initiation. Anticipating the storm, many school officials canceled Saturday events.

"This is the first snowstorm we've had," Balog said. "I think people were just prepared for it. They didn't have to go to school or work, so people just took it easy."

Above-freezing temperatures cooperated to keep snow from accumulating on most roads most of the day, officials said. By nightfall, snow began to collect on main arteries, and many road crews expected to work late shifts to clear them.

"The majority of roads are just wet," said Len Schultz of the State Highway Administration's emergency operations center. "We've had some fender benders, a couple of lane closures here and there due to accidents. We haven't had many problems."

In Howard County, side streets with little traffic had accumulations of 2 to 3 inches by afternoon, said public works director James Irvin. "Things are OK, as far as I'm concerned. All of the streets have been salted. There are no real hot spots. But there are some slippery spots. People need to be cautious."

There will be ample opportunity to dig out today, with a prediction of partly sunny skies and highs in the mid-30s. The National Weather Service said no more snow was in sight through tomorrow.

The storm originated in northern Arkansas and moved through Midwestern states before dropping accumulations between 4 and 8 inches over the mid-Atlantic region. The heaviest snow fell in the mountains of Virginia and eastern West Virginia. Central Maryland received 4 to 8 inches.

State police instituted snow emergency plans, requiring appropriate tires or chains for driving on designated routes, in 17 counties, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Howard and Harford.

But there were few reports of problems to the Pikesville headquarters.

"No one has reported anything serious," said Sgt. Duane Lee, a state police spokesman.

The only apparent power interruption occurred at a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. substation off Dorsey Road in Anne Arundel County. A BGE official said it left about 193 customers in that area without power for several hours.

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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