Pace of life on suburban side streets slows to the rate of dogged shoveling

Patience is a necessity for those who don't own a four-wheel-drive

January 27, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

In an endless blanket of knee-deep snow, two lonely trenches ran along the middle of Clifton Avenue in Arnold yesterday, marking the only clearing the street will likely see for a while, and the spot at the end of driveways where tired neighbors could finally rest their shovels.

Residents in the hilly neighborhood have grown used to digging themselves out to the road when it snows and waiting a long time for plows.

If they don't dig out, they might not see a grocery store until spring, they say.

"This community will be the last thing they do touch," said Norman Wright Jr., 51, who bought a house on Clifton Avenue 20 years ago across the street from the one in which he grew up.

Wright said that before getting to his own driveway, he spent two hours yesterday clearing the driveway that his 77-year-old father had started shoveling.

"We know how it is," Wright said. "You have to shovel down to the middle of the street or you're not getting out."

Far down on the list

Like hundreds of miles of secondary Anne Arundel County roads, Clifton Avenue is low on the list to be plowed, and yesterday neighbors from age 23 to 77 were slowly making their way with snow shovels from their 50-foot driveways down to the street, where only trucks and sport utility vehicles had ventured.

While motorists were zipping along an almost-dry Ritchie Highway less than two miles away, county officials said they didn't know how much longer it would take before streets such as Clifton Avenue would be plowed, because workers were still clearing lanes on major roadways. In past storms, residents said, they waited as long as five days.

"One year, we had to actually shovel our road," said Sandy Marshall, 51. "We're just patient here."

Barricading the mailboxes

When snowplows do come to the 40-year-old neighborhood where about 50 Cape Cods line the streets, residents said, they often hit only one side, pushing the snow to the opposite side of the road where all the community mailboxes are.

For days sometimes, neighbors say, they can't get mail or newspapers unless they also shovel a path to their mailboxes.

Those who can get through the snow with pickup trucks or SUVs run errands for neighbors, many of whom are elderly, sick or widowed. They worry on snowy days that they might have to make any emergency runs.

"If an ambulance has to come around here, he's not going to make it," Wright said. "I guess we've been pretty fortunate."

Yesterday, only a few brave souls without four-wheel-drive tried to force their cars along the ruts left by the 15-inch tires of powerful pickups and SUVs. Most, like Jamie Matthews, failed and were forced to leave their cars at the bottom of a hill and walk to their destinations.

Those with less confidence in their vehicles, such as Kelley Staley, grabbed a coat, hat and gloves and walked.

"I'm afraid it's just going to break up" in the snow, Staley said of her 1985 Chrysler New Yorker.

She was on her way home from a 7-Eleven more than a mile away, carrying a bag with a half-gallon of milk and a pack of cigarettes.

"Maybe they'll get us plowed by tomorrow morning -- before I run out of cigarettes," she said.

Anniversary trip

Edward R. Thomas IV, 23, was busy clearing a path in front of his blue 1994 Ford Mustang yesterday, hoping he could swing a U-turn from his roadside parking space and get through slush to Annapolis to see his girlfriend on their 13-month anniversary.

"I did not want it to snow this much last night because I knew I hadn't seen her in a while," he said, throwing pound after pound of snow behind him, all the time wishing he had a snow blower.

Most on Clifton Avenue inched patiently through the piles of snow, "shoveling, shoveling, "till more of it comes along," said Roy Young, 73, "I've done that since '54."

Young rested on a shovel at the end of his 45-foot driveway, trying to make his way to the 1976 Ford that he said will get him through the snow.

"Yeah, I can get out of here," he said, then added, "I'm not in any rush."

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