City breaks the ice

Residents dig out, salt up after major winter storm

February 19, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,SUN REPORTER

Michael Burris bent over a patch of ice on the street in front of his mother's west-side Baltimore home, shovel in hand.

He punctured the grayish-white mass with the end of the tool, then scooped up the loosened bits and tossed them onto a slowly growing pile that straddled the sidewalk and road edge.

"A lot of people wait until two, three days later - then the ice comes after the snow," said Burris, who wanted to clear the street so his mother could easily roll her shopping cart to her front door. "Then you got a problem."

The 49-year-old Burris, laboring on South Bentalou Street, wasn't the only one combating that problem yesterday as people across the Baltimore area continued to hack and salt their way through the mounds of snow-turned-ice that accumulated from last week's storm.

Some areas were dotted with plastic lawn chairs, stools or orange traffic cones - strategically placed to reserve the industrious ice-chippers' cleared-out parking spaces, a traditional if legally dubious practice.

Besides a few minutes of flurries late in the morning, the sun beamed for most of the day, lending a little thawing assistance to residents and roadsides as the hours passed. The slightly warmer weather - temperatures eased into the 30s - inspired some to step outside of the cozy indoors and take the slippery sidewalks to task.

"I'm just trying to do what I can," said landlord Ed Chase as he pitched handfuls of water-softener salt - the only thing he had at home - on the sidewalk outside one of his rental properties on West Lombard Street. A few feet away lay a shovel, which Chase picked up intermittently to clear a path through a solid white mass covering the concrete.

Chase had been making the rounds of his properties, salting, since Friday. "Hopefully, with the temperature getting better this week, it will all melt," he said.

That hope might become a reality.

"It's going to begin to warm up," said Sarah Rogowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's regional office in Sterling, Va. Sunshine is expected to remain through tomorrow morning, and temperatures might rise into the mid-40s. Although there is a chance of rain and snow tomorrow night and Wednesday, Rogowski said, dry conditions are expected to return until Saturday.

Hampden resident Gail Harris was clinging to that forecast, after days of riding the bus because she couldn't get her Ford Focus out of its spot on Roland Avenue near 40th Street.

She threw some salt around the car's wheels Saturday night, but still ended up walking to Sunday Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church when the car remained stuck.

"I have to get it out because, if not, I won't be able to get to work tomorrow," said Harris, a unit secretary for Sheppard Pratt Health System. "I was praying. I said, `God, please send somebody.'"

Her prayers were answered in the form of Donald Burke, who spotted her renewed struggle with the car. He wasn't doing anything, Burke said, so he decided to "help the lady out."

Shovel in hand, he worked swiftly, chipping away at the ice, then scooping large, dirt-peppered chunks out of the way.

"God bless him," Harris said as she watched Burke clear a patch of road to ease her eventual exit. She was determined not to leave that space yesterday, for fear of landing in another icy rut on a different street. "I just hope I can get out in the morning," she said.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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