Many helped shovel, push

others just got in the way

Kindnesses common, but some toss snow on others' cars, driveways

January 27, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The near blizzard that paralyzed Central Maryland yesterday brought out the best in people and a bit of the worst.

Snow-weary residents shoveled off sidewalks and pushed cars for strangers, but they also thoughtlessly dumped snow onto neighbors' driveways. And some planted lawn chairs in shoveled-out parking spaces, hoping to protect them.

From inner-city East Baltimore to Howard County, the biggest snowstorm in four years prompted residents to band together and shovel streets and roads untouched by snowplows.

Small acts of kindness flourished in the 100 block of S. Durham St. in Butchers Hill as children and parents shoveled and scraped snow from the sidewalks into the middle of the street, where it was cleared by a plow.

In Columbia, residents of Night Mist Court helped push cars trapped on an unplowed parking lot while shoveling snow from neighbors' walks.

"We have a nurse who lives a few doors away, and we had to dig her out," said Deborah Wilson as her 16-year-old son cleared a path in front of their townhouse.

In Rodgers Forge, art teacher Ann Summerson stopped her car at the urging of her 12-year-old son, James, so that they could help a neighbor clear snow off her car.

"My son said, `Mom, stop. I want to help,' so I stopped, and here we are," said Summerson, a teacher at Dumbarton Middle School.

On North Court Street in Westminster, Ty Mitts helped District Court Commissioner Heather Bader dig out her car so that she could make it to the courthouse. "He's a dream for a neighbor," Bader said.

But in Brooklyn, Catherine Ashwell, a 78-year-old widow, said the storm showed her that neighborliness has gone out the window.

After she cleaned off her front steps and sidewalk yesterday morning, Ashwell said, a neighbor shoveled out his driveway and piled the snow on her car.

"It's up above the top of my car, past the trunk lid, past the top of my car. It's all up under my car," said Ashwell, who lives in the 300 block of Edison St. "I wouldn't do that to anybody, and there's no excuse for them doing it."

On narrow streets throughout the city and suburbs, residents protected shoveled-out parking spaces by putting chairs in the streets.

A green lawn chair on West Pennsylvania Avenue in Westminster staked a claim to a cleared parking space. Such use of chairs was common in Rodgers Forge, where Geraldine Butler wasn't about to let someone take the space that had taken her two hours to carve out on Dumbarton Road.

"When you spend an hour or two shoveling snow to make yourself a parking space, you feel like you own it, like it's yours, and you don't want to see someone else take it," said Butler, a student at Maryland Institute, College of Art.

It is illegal to place chairs in the street, and homeowners are subject to fines of up to $120 for the offense, Baltimore County police said.

Police rarely ticket violators and usually respond to complaints from neighbors by moving the chairs or asking the homeowner to move them, said Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman.

"It's not a major problem for us," he said.

Janice Moore, a member of the Rodgers Forge community association's board, said the practice has become a tradition because people warn each other about the possibility of losing their spaces. That was the case yesterday, as neighbors shoveled out their cars while temperatures hovered in the 20s.

"I never have in the past, but I just had three people warn me to do it," said Amy Goodrich, who spent about 90 minutes clearing a space for her BMW on Heathfield Road.

Down the street, Andrea Kellert cleared the snow from around her station wagon and smiled as she explained her philosophy.

"If anybody takes the space, I'll kill them," she said.

Sun staff writers Lisa Respers, Kris Antonelli, Mike Farabaugh, Tim Craig, Kurt Streeter and John Rivera contributed to this article.

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