No day like a snow day

Despite the weather (or because of it), many ventured out for fun and shopping


Laura DuPree has the luxury of telecommuting during snow days, and yesterday she took advantage of that perk - while doing some holiday shopping.

"I'm working from home today," said DuPree, 28, an executive assistant who was Christmas shopping at The Mall in Columbia, staying in touch with her Northern Virginia office via BlackBerry. "Or working from the mall, actually."

Yesterday's snowfall was just enough to close schools around the region and put government offices on liberal leave. But once the sun popped out and the roads were clear, thousands of Baltimore-area schoolchildren, parents and government workers enjoyed a bonus day instead of digging out from a weather disaster.

Kathy Beckman spent her day shopping at the Columbia mall with her granddaughter, but she couldn't believe the snowfall in Howard County - which ranged from 2.5 inches in Laurel to 3.8 inches in Elkridge - shut down the schools.

"I was, like, the schools are closed, and why?" said Beckman, 56, of Laurel. "When I was going to school, I walked. If it snowed like that, they still expected us to be in."

"It's fine with me," her granddaughter, 17-year-old Diana Beckman of Columbia, chimed in.

The snow hit more heavily to the west, with 7 inches in Hancock and Frostburg. In Baltimore County, Hunt Valley reported 4 inches, and Owings Mills had 3.5 inches. Elsewhere, Carroll County received 3 to 5 inches, Harford got 3 to 4 inches and Frederick saw 5 to 6 inches.

No snow is forecast for Baltimore through Monday. However, temperatures will remain low, with daytime highs in the 30s and overnight lows in the teens and low 20s.

Yesterday, all public schools except those in Somerset and Worcester counties were closed - a decision that sparked plenty of debate at Westfield Shoppingtown Annapolis.

"It's a little silly," said Diane Ryan, a preschool teacher in Queen Anne's County, who nonetheless took the opportunity for a little shopping. "We shouldn't have had the day off."

John Campbell of Deale said the schools made the right decision.

"They're looking out for the safety of the children," said Campbell, who took his daughter and her friend to see the new Harry Potter movie instead of working. "There's nothing wrong with that."

The snowfall in Maryland was nothing compared to the more than a foot of snow that blanketed parts of New England during the first major storm of the season - as much as 14 inches in parts of New Hampshire. Areas around Poughkeepsie, N.Y., had a foot of snow, and northwest New Jersey reported 10 inches, as did parts of the Midwest.

In a milder downtown Baltimore, a handful of children took advantage of their day off from school to visit Patterson Park's Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro Family Ice Skating Rink.

Adrian Mroz, 17, brought his 10-year-old brother, Tomek, from their home near White Marsh.

"We'd wanted to go for a long time," Adrian said. "And with no school today, everyone can make it."

As holiday tunes played in the bubble-topped rink, Adrian glided skillfully across the ice while Tomek preferred taking running starts, then dropping to his knees in long skids.

Much better than school, Tomek said, where there'd be no skidding, sliding or goofiness - only "a lot of work."

In Sykesville, a few shops were closed, but at Wiley Purkey's train store, business was booming. He had customers waiting for him to open at 10 a.m. and more than 30 in the shop by noon.

"I wouldn't close except for a blizzard, and it's December, after all," said Purkey. "Everybody is putting train layouts together and coming in for more trains. In this business, you have to go with it, despite the weather. In April, there could be only tumbleweeds blowing through the door."

At Wisp ski resort in McHenry, skiers were drawn by the 7 inches of snow and the 15 open trails. The resort is celebrating its 50th birthday this weekend and is opening 10 new trails and two new four-person chair lifts.

"I'm looking out my office window and watching cars pull into the parking lot still," Lori Epp, a resort spokeswoman, said yesterday afternoon.

The Associated Press and Sun reporters Anica Butler, Mary Gail Hare, Jill Rosen and Frank D. Roylance contributed to this article.

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