The common prayer: Speed the snowplow!

From Harford to Howard, Park Heights to Parkton, everyone wanted removal


January 26, 2000|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Throughout the region, the quiet of winding side streets and cul-de-sacs was rarely broken yesterday by the rumbling of snowplows.

The storm tested snow-removal crews and left residents in the city and suburbia trapped in their homes. Some city residents like Antoinette Walker of Park Heights could walk to neighborhood stores or bus stops.

"It's always been this way," said Walker, carrying bags of groceries home through knee-deep snow on Oakmont Avenue. "These streets have not been plowed since 1986."

Many suburbanites, however, were snowbound.

"I'm beginning to wonder whether I will be out before April," said Stephen C. Thienel, a lawyer who lives on Race Road, a private street in Oella in Baltimore County.

Most Oella residents who live on roads maintained by the county or a homeowners association saw a plow at least once or twice yesterday. But the plows didn't come down Thienel's road, and he didn't expect them to.

"The deed says we're on our own," he said.

A plow went through Robert Shovan's neighborhood in Ellicott City before 8 a.m., but roads in the Brampton Hills development were soon covered again.

"You want my honest opinion? Howard County snow removal stinks," the New Jersey native said. "If the tax money is going for the schools, and we don't get these storms all that much -- so be it. But if [the severe weather] continues, they better reassess the money."

Carroll County resident Brenda Hamlin took the storm in stride.

"The plow came through early this morning and I haven't seen them since," said Hamlin, who lives in Piney Run in South Carroll. "No one really gets upset. They just wait until the snowplows come through. There's nowhere to go anyway. I've been reading books and doing things I've been putting off."

Baltimore County, which maintains 2,500 miles of roads, usually can plow them all in 10 to 12 hours. But yesterday's heavy snow and drifting made the task more difficult, said Gary Zour, a public works supervisor.

The plow drivers are assigned routes and must give priority to major roads before venturing into the subdivisions. "A cul-de-sac is very time-consuming," he said. "We don't know when we will get around to them all."

In the northern part of the county, many residents live on shared driveways and informally agree to pay for plowing.

Frequently, these homeowners wait until the snow has stopped, but one Parkton driveway more than two football fields long was plowed four times by 3 p.m.

That's because the plow owner, James E. Fitting, is also one of the residents. His six neighbors pay him $40 a year each to keep the snow off the driveway they share and $20 for their personal driveways.

Frank Volpitta, one of Fitting's neighbors, said the residents on the driveway once hired a lawyer to see if the county would maintain their road, but the county refused. So far, the arrangement with Fitting has worked well.

Jack Thompson, a construction foreman from Parkton, plows driveways for about 25 customers who pay him $25 for a typical driveway or $20 for each homeowner on a shared drive.

"Three inches or more and I go out and push," he said.

When a county street gets plowed depends not only on how many cars use the road, but also where it is located. Snowplows often pass by Jim Dobson's home on Murdock Road in Anneslie on their way to more heavily traveled streets.

"As the trucks are cutting across to the other main roads, they'll plow as they're driving," Dobson said. "They went through our streets this morning. In the past, you could wait two to four days before they'd plow your street. But they've been much better in recent years."

By noon yesterday, the plows had penetrated the cul-de-sacs in Loveton Farms, scraped the winding roads in Ruxton and passed through streets in Mays Chapel.

Barry Truax, president of the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Area Improvement Association said most residents understand that the county plows will arrive when the main roads are cleared.

Harford County plows could not keep ahead of the snow, especially in colder areas like Jarrettsville and Norrisville where drifting made roads impassable.

John Panzer got up at 3: 30 a.m. yesterday to plow roads for the county in Churchville, but his wife, Lucy, was stuck in their subdivision in Jarrettsville.

"It's hopeless," she said. "The snow is stacking up. There are no cars on the road."

Sun staff writers Joe Nawrozki, Jay Apperson, Dan Thanh Dang, David Nitkin, John Murphy, Tim Craig, Del Quentin Wilber and Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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