Surprise! Snow buries Md.

Unexpected storm roars in, paralyzing center of state

Winds gust to 45 mph

Road-clearing crews fall behind

more accumulation today


January 26, 2000|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

An unexpected nor'easter dumped more than a foot of snow on the region yesterday, shutting down roads, schools, malls and airports as surprised Marylanders awoke to find near-blizzard conditions outside.

The storm, with wind gusts of up to 45 mph, is Maryland's worst since 1996.

It blew in from the south early yesterday and by nightfall had crippled most of the state, with Gov. Parris N. Glendening declaring a state of emergency.

Last night, reported accumulations measured 17 inches in Annapolis, 16 inches in Cockeysville, 14 inches in northern Anne Arundel County, 13.2 inches in Prince George's, 13 inches in Charles and 10 inches in Howard.

"In many areas, they're clearing the roads and within 15 minutes they're blocked again," said Glendening, who activated the Maryland National Guard and made its Humvees available for emergency transportation.

He urged Marylanders to check on their neighbors, particularly the elderly.

Many school systems -- including those for Baltimore, Baltimore County, Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George's, and almost all of the Eastern Shore counties -- had already declared snow days today.

In Baltimore, city workers were urging residents to stay in again today if possible, to allow the crews to clean 2,000 miles of streets. As the snow tapered off early this morning, crews across the state were struggling to clear roads for today's commute.

"It's taking its toll on us," said George L. Winfield, chief of the city Department of Public Works, whose crews tried to keep up with a storm that dumped up to two inches an hour on Baltimore.

Many throughout the state looked out their windows early yesterday in shock to see the storm, which wasn't supposed to hit for at least another 24 hours.

"I went to bed early last night and the last thing I heard on the news was that all we'd get is flurries," Boyd McClain, a worker at Western Maryland College in Westminster, said as he shoveled off some campus steps. "This is a big flurry."

Many areas reported "whiteout" conditions, and tens of thousands stayed home to avoid impassable roads and snowdrift-covered parking lots.

At one point the main runway at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was shut down, with only about 20 planes getting in or out by early afternoon.

"We've usually got 700 planes a day coming or going," said Marilyn Corbett, a BWI spokeswoman. "The best advice we can give people is to heed the warnings and stay home."

Andy Woodcock, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the snow began tapering off in Central Maryland about 8 p.m., when the brunt of the storm was off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J.

"This storm was stoked to be a heavy snow producer from the start," he said. "I'm not sure I want to forecast the end of snow."

Weather service forecasters predicted a 40 percent chance of light snow today from a second storm heading this way on strong northwest winds. That snow was expected sometime this afternoon.

Mass Transit Administration officials said bus, metro and light rail services will continue full schedules this morning.

Rail service to Washington on two of the three MARC commuter routes -- the Brunswick and Camden lines -- is canceled today with the Penn line from downtown Baltimore operating on a holiday schedule, according to an MTA spokesman.

So many people opted to stay inside yesterday that road mishaps were at a minimum, according to highway officials.

For those who venture out, In the city, everything from the Johns Hopkins University to mom-and-pop stores were closed.

City homicide detectives found it harder and harder yesterday to get around on Baltimore's killing streets, having to borrow four-wheel-drive vehicles from other departments to make it to crime scenes. Among them was Detective Sgt. Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who took a jeep used by the police K-9 team to get to a fatal O'Donnell Heights shooting a few minutes after noon.

Many of those who made it into Baltimore to work yesterday found that they couldn't get out -- and had no place to stay.

Downtown hotels were flooded with requests, and some couldn't offer untidied rooms because the maids expected to clean them weren't able to get to work.

The storm shut down most of the Eastern Shore. With roads impassable before dawn, many businesses, including some of the region's largest employers -- poultry plants and such manufacturers as Black and Decker in Easton -- joined schools, local governments and courts in giving workers the day off.

Sleet, rain and snow shut down Salisbury-Wicomico Regional Airport all day.

Besides a jackknifed tractor-trailer on the Beltway and some fender-benders, the storm resulted in few motor vehicle accidents. The only possible storm-related fatality was reported in the Millersville area of Anne Arundel County, where a 76-year-old man was found dead in snow outside his home after apparently going out to clear a path, fire officials said.

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