Springlike weather sends snow packing, gives lift to residents

As revelers enjoy respite from precipitation, Ehrlich seeks federal aid for state

March 06, 2003|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

If those lingering snow piles could speak, they might have mimicked yesterday the wicked witch from the Land of Oz: "I'm melting, I'm melting."

Springlike temperatures further diminished what frosty mounds remain from the record snowstorm last month and brought Marylanders outdoors to relish a sudden surge of spring.

With a high of 59 degrees recorded at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the afternoon was warm enough for walkers to shed their coats, middle-schoolers in shirtsleeves to toss snowballs and public works crews to take a break (however brief) from their mind-numbing snow-removal duties.

"This is unbelievable, isn't it?" said Ruth Vilardo, 61, who removed her coat during a short walk from a meeting in Westminster.

"How often do you get to come outside in the winter without your coat on?" said Kim Conrad, 44, smoking a cigarette outside a Towson restaurant.

The snow was receding from the sledding hill near the dam at Lake Elkhorn in Columbia, and the path was sprinkled with joggers, people walking their dogs and moms with strollers.

"The kids are getting muddy, and I don't even care because the sun is shining," Leigh Ridgell, 33, of Columbia said as she watched her son, Ryan, 4, and her daughter, Jane, 22 months, play outside after weeks of being cooped indoors.

At Druid Hill Park, Linda Taylor, 43, and her 12-year-old daughter, Natalie, rejoiced in the fact that, for the first time in weeks, they didn't have to power-walk -- in snow boots. "It's just so good that the snow is going away," Taylor said.

Just as she has all winter, Blythe Woods, a horticulturist at St. John's College in Annapolis, wore gloves yesterday. But at last, they were her gardening gloves, not winter mittens.

In the aftermath of last month's record 28-inch snowfall, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has asked President Bush to declare most of Maryland a federal disaster area.

In a letter submitted yesterday, Ehrlich requested federal disaster aid for 17 counties and Baltimore City, including the entire Baltimore-Washington corridor, Western Maryland and the Upper Eastern Shore.

"The snowstorm contained such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State of Maryland and local governments," wrote Ehrlich, who estimated that the storm cost state and local governments more than $55 million.

If the aid request is approved, the state could recoup up to 75 percent of those costs.

Ehrlich based his request on "blizzard-like conditions" that shut most of the state for two days. He also noted the clogged storm drains, collapsed buildings, nonstop snow removal process and previous storms this winter as a reason for Bush to grant the request.

Forecasters say the Baltimore region can expect high temperatures in the mid-30s today, freezing rain and morning snow, with an inch of accumulation possible.

Sun staff writers Sandy Alexander, Tim Craig, Ryan Davis, Abby Foster and Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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