Clearing paths to more snow

Snowbound: Many Howard residents are getting antsy because their roads aren't plowed, while others are taking advantage of time with their families.

February 19, 2003|By Larry Carson, Laura Cadiz and Jamie Smith Hopkins | Larry Carson, Laura Cadiz and Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Neighbors joined forces yesterday to shovel out cars, driveways and cul-de-sacs across Howard County, but some had little choice but to turn around and go back inside because the streets beyond were still snowy white and unplowed.

Local officials continued to sift through the fallout from the storm, from impassable side streets to caved-in barns to a ruined bubble that - until shortly before midnight Sunday - had covered five tennis courts in Columbia.

County road crews expect to have all residential streets cleared by late today, said Alan Ferragamo, deputy public works director, who spent yesterday in the county's Emergency Operations Center. Residents who have spent days shoveling their way to nothing but more snow are "getting antsy" waiting for a plow to clear their streets, he added.

"It's been the usual `We want to go grocery shopping,' " Ferragamo said about the nonstop barrage of calls, and a few "intense" business owners were less than polite as they waited to get out of their homes and back to work.

Tough luck for all with cabin fever: The only special runs county plows make are when county paramedics or firefighters call for help. Residents can watch the progress of the plows on their home computers at www.co.ho.md.us, which gives the real-time locations of every piece of county snow-clearing equipment.

Howard County has spent about $1.6 million on snow removal this winter, which is just over $1 million more than was budgeted, Ferragamo said.

Some of the snowed-in residents are not too upset. They see it as weather-mandated family time - Mother Nature's way of making people slow down.

"It's kind of a nice little gift that we all get," said Linda Hitzelberger, a Columbia resident stuck on her cul-de-sac yesterday like many others in Hickory Ridge village. "I'm sure there are a lot of families that are playing board games and watching old movies."

Nancy Levine, who lives on another unplowed Hickory Ridge street, also had a reason to be happy: Her husband, often out of town on defense-related work, spent yesterday with her because his Monday flight could not get off the ground.

"This is the first time since a long time that we've had time to sit down and talk," she said.

Everyone in Hitzelberger's neighborhood was out again yesterday, reshoveling and rewiping because another inch of snow fell overnight. On Monday, armed with shovels and a snowblower on a sled, the neighborhood's men helped a visitor get his snowed-in car out of the middle of the street and into a driveway.

Neighbors also came to the rescue in the western Howard community of Woodbine, where tractor-driving folks helped Terry Chaconas clear her long driveway.

"It's been wonderful," said Chaconas, who has lived in her neighborhood 12 years. "It really brings out a sense of community."

The snow brought headaches for others.

The bubble over five courts at Columbia's Owen Brown Tennis Club collapsed with a crack like thunder shortly before midnight Sunday, even though Columbia Association employees had worked throughout the day to clear the structure of snow.

About 7 p.m. Sunday, the bubble - made of a synthetic canvas-type material - started to sag, said Rob Goldman, Columbia Association's vice president for sport and fitness. No one was inside that day.

"It kept slowly coming down," he said. "We did everything we could to keep it up, and we couldn't."

Whenever snow falls, association workers throw cables on top of the structure and "literally beat the snow off the bubble," Goldman said. But Sunday, there was a pocket on the bubble that the snow piled into, and the workers couldn't get it out, he said.

It probably will be months before the association can patch the bubble and get it back up, Goldman said. The material has some significant rips, and it also took down the courts' light fixtures, he said.

The structure, which cost about $543,000, is insured.

On Monday, three Howard County barn roofs collapsed under the weight of snow, including one that fell on a horse inside, injuring the animal's leg.

The young chestnut-colored horse was alone in the 40-foot by 20-foot wood barn when it fell, said Mickey Day, chief of the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department, which responded to a call from a neighbor who heard the collapse and heard the horse neighing on Burnt Woods Road in the western county.

Day said a county plow helped clear a path up a long driveway, and the firefighters walked through knee-deep snow behind a home to reach the frightened animal. It was cut on one leg, but the injury did not appear life-threatening, Day said.

"It collapsed in the center, and the horse was able to get to one side," he said. We had a hard time getting back there."

An empty barn, measuring roughly 100 feet by 50 feet, collapsed at a dairy farm on Old Frederick Road, near Route 32, Day said, and a third, larger building sheltering machinery fell on Old Frederick, near Underwood Road.

The snow that took days to accumulate may take even longer to get out of the way.

Yesterday, the Columbia Association started clearing its nearly 90 miles of pathways, said Warren Raymond, the Columbia Association's assistant director for open space. The paths that children use to walk to the county's schools will be the first to be plowed, he said.

"It's a mess," Raymond said. "I know this is going to be several days, at least, getting the pathways clear."

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