Drifts yield, but battle isn't over

Major routes clear, but secondary roads remain hazardous

Snow emergency extended

In Baltimore, calls to elderly: in counties, Guard ferries patients

January 27, 2000|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

With shovels, plows and grit, Marylanders dug out yesterday from a nor'easter that brought one of the state's heaviest snowfalls of the past 50 years, forcing the governor to continue a state of emergency for another day.

Road crews have plowed major highways around the state, but they warned that many secondary roads haven't been cleared and that dangerous conditions still exist.

Snowdrifts of up to 8 feet were reported in Baltimore County, where National Guard Humvees were being used to take people to kidney dialysis appointments.

"We did great, but it's not over yet," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who had his aides call nearly 10,000 city senior citizens yesterday to make sure they had food and whatever medicine they needed. The storm left 17 inches of snow in Baltimore.

Among the areas hardest hit by the blustery storm were several in Anne Arundel County, with 19 inches reported in Arnold and Riviera Beach. Cockeysville in Baltimore County received 18 inches, while areas of Carroll County got 15 and Howard County 14.

While the snow totals are still a distant second to the Blizzard of '96, which left 22 inches throughout Central Maryland, Tuesday's storm packed enough punch to keep the region buried in problems. Anne Arundel, Calvert, Dorchester, Kent and Harford County schools have declared today a snow day, and other school systems, overwhelmed by parking lots full of snow, have said that delays are likely.

Baltimore schools are closed to students today and tomorrow for a professional development day. Essential school personnel are asked to report to their usual sites as scheduled.

"There is a lot of snow. We are not sure what we are going to find as we go in and out of neighborhoods," said Baltimore Public Works Director George Winfield. "It's really difficult to tell when this is going to be over with."

About 245 snowplows -- including some hired by the city from private contractors -- fanned out across town yesterday. Winfield said he is paying special attention to neighborhoods neglected in previous storms.

"We are attacking it from the four quarters of the city, starting with areas where we have gotten complaints in the past," he said.

Dozens of residential streets cannot be plowed because they are too narrow or are blocked, Winfield said.

"We are going to do the best we can with the side streets," Winfield said. "But obviously, if there are parked cars and sometimes stranded cars, we are not going to be able to get into there."

In the North Point area of Baltimore County, pedestrian Michael Alan Stevenson, 43, was killed Tuesday night when he apparently slipped and fell under the rear wheels of a tow truck. The driver didn't stop and was being sought by police for questioning.

On the Eastern Shore, officials reported that numerous mailboxes had been toppled by a combination of the heavy snow and the trucks trying to plow it. In many areas, trash removal has been hampered because trucks can't get through or, when they can, workers aren't able to find trash bags covered by snowdrifts.

Getting the plowed snow out of the way remains the biggest problem.

"We're going to go back literally with front-end loaders and haul it away," said David Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration. Motorists should keep alert for road crews with snow blowers and other heavy equipment, he said.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport had only one runway open for the second day in a row until it reopened the other major runway at 6 p.m. The weather continued to limit flights, said spokeswoman Betsey Sanpere.

"We certainly think schedules will not get back to normal for another day or two," she said. "We'll still be playing a little catch-up [today], but both runways will be open, and we expect that the weather will cooperate."

BWI workers supplied pillows and blankets Tuesday night to more than 150 people who were stranded and spent the night on the floors or in the observation gallery. Travelers arriving at the airport got home yesterday to find their cars in the long-term lot had been buried up to the windows.

"Oh boy, oh boy," said a shovel-less Dave Turner, who returned to Baltimore from Arkansas to find his car buried. "This is going to be cold."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening extended the state of emergency across Maryland for another day, noting local jurisdictions' need for National Guard equipment.

Glendening said he had intended to lift the state of emergency yesterday, but some local jurisdictions had not cleared some secondary streets and needed the Guard's Humvees for emergency transportation, particularly for medical emergencies.

He said he expects to lift the state of emergency today and that the state government, which was closed Tuesday and yesterday, will be open today.

More than 2,300 state workers have worked around the clock clearing snow from Maryland highways, the governor said.

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