Snowstorm behind, icy roads ahead

Water mains rupture

flights delayed at BWI

Two killed in road accidents

January 27, 2004|By Ariel Sabar | Ariel Sabar,SUN STAFF

As Marylanders dug out from the snow yesterday on one more frigid January morning, forecasters could promise little relief from a month of grinding cold. Commuters already bone-chilled and frazzled from weeks of freezing weather could set out today on roads made slick by up to a quarter-inch of ice.

"The biggest question is, `Will we climb over 32 degrees?'" said Luis Rosa, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "If it's above 32, it's plain liquid. If it's below 32, it will create very hazardous conditions and could knock down power lines."

And so January continues to distinguish itself not for weather records, but for a dreary procession of lip-cracking, cheek-reddening days that have tried the patience of Marylanders accustomed to milder fare.

One of the few businesses open in snowbound Westminster yesterday was the Travel Network, where workers were busy fielding calls from clients seeking flights south.

"People just want to get away," said owner Christine Belge.

Every day since Jan. 5 has seen temperatures slip below freezing and often into the teens, with the wind chill making it feel as cold as zero. Thermometers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport topped out at 21 degrees yesterday, half the normal high temperature.

Yesterday's storm draped much of the Baltimore region under 6 inches of snow, with freezing drizzle and icy mist lingering through the day.

"It's brutal," said Rosa, using a word that strictly speaking isn't a meteorological term. "We usually don't get very prolonged periods of cold weather."

At least two deaths were attributed to the weather. Authorities said Robert M. McGauley, 57, of Churchville in Harford County, was killed yesterday morning by a sport utility vehicle that spun out of control. McGauley, a logistician at Aberdeen Proving Ground, was clearing his driveway with a snow-blower about 8:30 a.m. when he was hit by a Chevrolet Blazer, state police said. In Cambridge, State Police said a tractor-trailer driver was killled when his rig skidded off icy U.S. 50 around 7:35 p.m. and struck two trees. Police said Curtis Earl Badger, 45, of Salisbury was pronounced dead at the scene.

In Baltimore, the snow fell as the cold was already making a mess of the city's water pipes. The Department of Public Works had received 66 reports of water main breaks or leaks in the 3,000-mile network of pipes that delivers water through the city and Baltimore County.

"It's cold, it's wet," said Robert Murrow, a department spokesman. "Guys are tired; they've been working real hard."

Maxine Hayes of Hampden stayed home from work after turning on the kitchen faucet to find nary a drop. Workers had finally come to fix the broken 10-inch main outside, which meant no water for her and her neighbors until the afternoon.

"I said, `Hey, boss, I can't come in looking like this,'" said Hayes, an office manager for a machine company. "I can't get a bath, wash my hair, brush my teeth."

Without water to feed her radiators, her rowhouse was growing colder by the hour. So, she wrapped herself in blankets and waited.

Baltimore's special emergency shelter drew 219 men, women and children Sunday night, a record for the 2-year-old program, said Melisa Lindamood of the city Health Department.

School districts reached into their dwindling supply of snow days and were to decide whether to use another today. Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Dorchester and St. Mary's counties announced that schools will be closed today.

In Carroll County, Union Bridge canceled its town meeting for the first time in 17 years, said Mayor Bret D. Grossnickle.

Workers at the Barnes & Noble bookstore by the Towson traffic circle were getting ready to close at 5 p.m., six hours earlier than usual, for lack of customers.

"I'm ready to move to Florida," said the weary manager, Sam Ranocchia.

Raquel Sanudo, Howard County's chief administrative officer, did move - from a detached home in western Howard to a Clarksville condominium - to avoid shoveling snow. To no avail. A plow piled a bank of snow behind her car, leaving her no room to back out. She worked from home.

Except for a few spots, Annapolis harbor appeared frozen yesterday. Ulric Dahlgren, the city's harbormaster, said a woman called in the morning to ask if she could get her boats out for a boat show in Miami. The state's ice-breaking boats were available only for emergencies, he told her.

The State Highway Administration put out its full complement of 2,000 snowplows and salt trucks Sunday night. While the snow created treacherous driving conditions and led to dozens of minor accidents, the real worry was the freezing rain expected today.

About 2,400 state highway employees assigned to snow duty used the lull between storms yesterday to catch a few hours of sleep on cots at agency garages and eat hot meals provided by local restaurants. Officials said they would work around the clock until the last storm cleared the region.

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