Modest snow, ice produce big mess

A slippery day in Maryland

Cancellations, power outages, closings disrupt the area

February 15, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

It only takes a little bit of snow and ice in Baltimore to produce a big mess.

Just 1.3 inches of snow and a half-inch of ice fell yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in the worst winter storm to hit Central Maryland this year, according to the National Weather Service. But the aftermath - including power outages, school closings, flight cancellations and delays, and the inevitable fender-benders - told the real story.

About 90,000 homes and businesses served by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. in the Baltimore metropolitan area lost electricity - more than 65,000 of them in Anne Arundel County, and mostly because of snow and ice-laden tree branches falling on power lines, said company spokeswoman Linda Foy.

More outages were expected as forecasters predicted wind gusts up to 40 mph overnight. BGE mobilized 850 of its employees to restore power and brought in 400 utility workers from states as far away as Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky to assist.

By last night, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Cecil counties had announced school closings for today, as had Montgomery and Prince George's counties in the Washington area.

At BWI, the cancellations provided a picture of operations largely grounded: from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., 70 flights canceled; from 9 a.m. to noon, only 13 departures out of 60 scheduled.

The effects of the storm will likely ripple for days, said William Partridge, an air traffic analyst for Orbitz.com, an online travel company.

"Runways are very similar to highways and interstates; even if an accumulation of snow has been cleared, the aftermath of the ice and slush can make for problems," Partridge said.

In an incident that caused serious injury, a 12-year-old boy was sledding on a snow-covered hill near Old Dairy Farm Road in the Gambrills area of Anne Arundel County shortly after 3 p.m. when he crossed the road and was struck by a 2002 Ford F-150 pickup truck. County police said hedges and trees near the road prevented the driver from seeing the boy, and he didn't realize he had struck the child until hearing a noise from under the vehicle. The driver called 911 on his cell phone, police said.

The boy, whose name was not released, suffered multiple injuries and was in critical condition last night at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Traffic accidents - mostly caused by "spinouts"- were frequent. One of the most serious in the area occurred when a tanker truck loaded with milk slid and rolled onto its side on the Beltway near the entrance ramp to southbound Interstate 83 about 2:15 p.m. A traffic tie-up of more than three hours ensued.

While workers were trying to set the tanker upright, it flipped onto its other side, officials said. None of the milk spilled, and no injury resulted - but it was not until 5:40 p.m. that the tanker was back on its wheels.

The weather also made for slow going elsewhere - such as the 2 1/2 -hour drive Rich Gardiner reported of his trip to work as a firefighter at Reagan National Airport. He left his Bel Air home at 4:15 a.m. for a 24-hour shift that was to begin at 7 a.m. - a trip that usually takes about 80 minutes, he said. "I heard ice hitting the house so I gave myself extra time."

Operating his four-wheel-drive vehicle, Gardiner said, "It was 30 miles per hour most of the way on snow-covered roads."

He added: "I wondered how people going any faster could stay in control. The tractor-trailers sped by me and all I could think was: `I hope they don't blow me off the road.'"

A fellow firefighter, also from Bel Air, had a harrowing experience on Washington's 14th Street Bridge. "Somebody tapped his Jeep and kept going," Gardiner said. "The Jeep spun out, and he was facing the wrong way on the bridge in rush-hour traffic."

The power problems were good for some businesses - such as restaurants.

More than half of the noontime patrons at the Szechuan Cafe in Pasadena were families whose homes had been without power all morning - among them David Brucnal, a federal employee off for the day because of the government's weather-related shutdown.

He was joined by his wife, Donna, with son Josh, 12, and daughter Jordan, 9, since Anne Arundel County schools also were closed. The power "went on and off this morning, and then it finally went off," said David Brucnal, an electrical engineer,

Donna Brucnal looked at the situation as an opportunity for an early Valentine's dinner.

With school canceled in Baltimore County, Michael Pavsner, 13, cozied up to a corner booth at the New Towne Diner on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills. Wolfing down a breakfast of hot pancakes and scrapple, the eighth-grader was grateful for an extra day to study for a history test at Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown. "I was ready for it, though," Michael said as his cousin, Jennifer Stoker, 19, chuckled in disbelief.

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