Sudden noreaster brings out good, bad

Digging out: Unexpected snow storm revives sense of community among stranded Marylanders.

January 27, 2000

NOTHING revives a sense of community like an unexpected big snow storm. Neighbors are united by a mission as they try to recover their cars from billowy drifts. Our mutual interdependence is underscored when a total stranger with a four-wheel drive vehicles becomes a Good Samaritan.

The storms aftermath also brings out the worst in many people. Just ask any Marylander who puts time and effort into digging out a parking space -- only to have it stolen by someone else.

This weeks snow storm was the biggest one to hit Maryland since a whopper four years ago dumped more than 22 inches. Whether the various jurisdictions did a good or bad job plowing depends pretty much on an observers vantage point. Since big snowfalls here are relatively infrequent, main arteries usually are plowed quickly while side streets have to wait for days. Yesterday was no exception.

After a storm of this magnitude, many Marylanders rely on mass transit to get them to work and essential errands. Because few of them may patronize buses or the light rail on days when their cars are readily available, getting accurate and up-to-date schedule information is essential.

In that mission, the Mass Transit Administration failed miserably.

As the afternoons homeward commute started yesterday, the MTA web site -- the prime source of information on days when the information telephone lines may be busy for hours -- kept offering information that had been last updated at 10: 30 p.m. Tuesday night.

This is inexcusable. Such lassitude does nothing to alleviate the typical middle-class bias against public transportation as a service that is unreliable and inconvenient.

The negative economic impact of the stealthy noreaster will be tallied up over the next few days. By the time those calculations are completed, much of the snow may be gone already. Which is exactly the reassuring point: Snow in Maryland usually stays longer in memories and photographs than on the ground.

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