In the `thawing period'

Weather: There was hardly a need for shovels for yesterday's snow, but the worst of the season may be yet to come.

February 25, 2005|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

It takes at least three hours to make a birdhouse from a kit - plus added time for the paint to dry - making it an especially popular snowy-day purchase for moms shopping at the Michael's craft store in Towson yesterday.

"Lots of parents are bringing their kids in looking for something to do," said Brian Hockman, who was manning the cash register. "The idea is to get something for little kids to keep them occupied for longer than 10 minutes."

The first significant snowfall in nearly a month - what was in some parts of Maryland the biggest accumulation this season - was expected to drop 4 to 8 inches across the state before tapering off around midnight. It closed schools even before the first flakes fell, closed libraries in Anne Arundel County shortly after noon, emptied some offices long before 5 p.m. and put road crews on notice.

One weather-related fatality was reported as the result of a car crash in Carroll County on Route 27 near Taylorsville, which killed 64-year-old Edmund Riemer Jr. of New Windsor.

"Baltimore seems to shut down as soon as there's a flake in the air," said Nadine Fontana of Guilford.

In Preston, a town of 566 on the Eastern Shore, longtime Town Manager Ann "Mimi" Willis said the snow hadn't amounted to much by afternoon. Roads were clear. The only problem in her flat Caroline County town was finding a decent place to sled, she said.

"If you're going to have a snowstorm, this is the kind you want," Willis said. "It's a beautiful, heavy snow that sticks to all the trees, but not to the roads. We're just wishing for a hill."

Today is expected to be partly cloudy with temperatures in the 30s - with no more precipitation until early next week. Whether that will be rain or snow, it's too soon to predict.

The mild temperatures this season - and the limited snowfall - may have lulled some into thinking the worst of the season could pass the area by.

"We're not out of the woods yet as far as winter weather," said Steve Rogowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "Many times you have a thawing period [mid-winter], and everyone starts thinking winter is over and usually it ends up being a tease."

The roads stayed in good shape much of the day, a combination of aggressive road maintenance and warm road temperatures that kept snow from sticking to the surfaces.

"So far, so darn good," said Dave Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration at mid-afternoon.

And other officials said conditions remained better than expected as evening came, though 15 crashes, some with serious injuries, were reported in Carroll County, as well as a rash of minor fender-benders on roads across the Baltimore metropolitan area.

State police reported that some motorists lost control of their vehicles when they drove across slushy sections of highway.

In Annapolis, which got some of the highest accumulations, John Hannon was at the post office in downtown Annapolis early sprinkling salt to prepare for the snow.

However, the maintenance worker ended up shoveling away his efforts. Every shovelful of slushy, wet snow he removed from the capital city's brick sidewalks also removed the salt he had spread. And more flakes quickly covered any cleared areas.

"All this stuff's going to freeze," he said. "It's kind of a losing battle."

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley didn't have to worry about shoveling. He left his boots at home and headed to Florida for a day of meetings: first a drug control policy session in Miami, then further south to Key West for the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. canceled his public appearances for today because they were to be held in schools and his aides thought it was possible school could be called off again.

No decisions on today's school schedule had been made last night.

In Columbia yesterday, Ranjana Bhasin, who runs the FarashM-i Day Spa across from the Mall in Columbia with Nanousa Sidhu, said men were calling to make appointments for massages.

"Wouldn't you want a massage on a stressful day like this?" she said.

Several women, however, canceled their evening appointments after forecasters began calling for accumulation.

Kathy McKinsey and her husband, Larry, were coming from their home in Lancaster, Pa., yesterday morning to check on the boat they have docked in Middle River when they decided to skip it and start their extended weekend getaway in Tampa.

"We saw more and more snow and we thought, `Forget the boat, go South now,'" she said.

So they hopped on a 2 p.m. AirTran flight - instead of waiting until 5 p.m. - and were in Florida before sunset.

Sun staff writers Anica Butler, Ryan Davis, Chris Guy, Melissa Harris, Liz F. Kay, Sheridan Lyons, Katie Martin, Jennifer McMenamin, Sara Neufeld and Jill Rosen contributed to this article.

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