Spirits dampened by sodden commutes

Rain, fog lead to delays throughout metro area

`As bad as it's been in a while'

October 11, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

It almost seemed like you were in Washington.

That's how bad yesterday morning's commute was across metropolitan Baltimore. There weren't even any snow flurries.

Instead, the traffic menace -- aside from drivers doing a tap routine on their brake pedals -- was a soupy mess of fog and drizzle. Drought-addled area residents seemed to have forgotten how to drive in rain.

From interstates to back roads, the view through the windshield was red and gray, brake lights and clouds, plus the occasional spray from a passing semi. The sodden rush hour did not come to an end until after 10 a.m.

"It was as bad as it's been in a while," said "Detour Dave" Sandler, traffic reporter for WBAL and 98 Rock radio stations. "It was one solid, long line of traffic."

On a bright note, police said that few accidents occurred, and most were fender benders. And the region needed rain. Slightly more than a half-inch fell at Baltimore-Washington International Airport between 1 a.m. and 1 p.m., the National Weather Service said.

Among the inching masses yesterday were a congressman pondering war with Iraq; a fellow trying to make a physical therapy appointment; and many drivers wondering about the guy in a rain slicker dancing around on an Anne Arundel County overpass.

And there was Holly Daskalakis, the grants manager at the Abell Foundation in downtown Baltimore. Her commute from Sparks normally takes a half hour. Yesterday, it took an hour and 20 minutes.

Southbound traffic usually does not thicken on the Jones Falls Expressway until beyond the Ruxton Road exit. Yesterday, it did on the Beltway, before she reached the JFX.

"It was a nightmare," she said. "We just crept into downtown."

She kept waiting to see an accident scene that might explain the delay. There was none.

The clogs were all around. Interstate 95 was jammed, Sandler said, and the eastbound lanes of I-70 were a mess.

Highways weren't the only problem. Frustrated motorists took an hour to get from Catonsville to Baltimore via Edmondson Avenue.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin spent two hours and 10 minutes heading to Washington. The Baltimore Democrat called that "totally unacceptable."

Cardin didn't get mad, though. He got philosophical. He spent an hour pondering the pros and cons of his "no" vote on the war resolution with Iraq.

In Anne Arundel County, Mark Allshouse was just puzzled. So were a lot of other drivers on Route 10. On an overpass, a man waved wildly in front of campaign signs for Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Republican candidate for governor.

Before guessing that the man was a dedicated campaign worker, he thought, "We got snipers, maybe the guy's committing suicide."

"I ... see traffic backed up three miles because of this clown," said Allshouse, who could afford to laugh: He was headed in the opposite direction.

At Towson Sports Medicine, most patients arrived for their appointments on time, said physical therapist Julie Eberly. But one patient had bad luck and didn't make it at all: The man was involved in a car accident on his way to therapy.

Everyone gets to try again today. The forecast calls for occasional rain.

Sun staff writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Julie Bykowicz, Ellie Baublitz, Athima Chansanchai, Sandy Alexander and Jamie Smith Hopkins contributed to this article.

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