Updates on local snow preparations

  • Store manager Paul Kalinowski and employee Susan DiSalvatore continue to restock snow shovels at the front of the store. The Home Depot store on Eastern Avenue is selling hundreds of shovels and bags of ice melt as people get ready for the predicted snowstorm.
Store manager Paul Kalinowski and employee Susan DiSalvatore… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
February 04, 2010|By Baltimore Sun staff

First snowstorm as mayor

Transportation chief Al Foxx stood up in the crowded Cabinet meeting — Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake's first as mayor.

"There's a 20 percent chance of 20 inches or more," he said in a low, rumbling voice. The agency heads erupted into a chorus of gasps and moans.

"Say that again!" said Rawlings-Blake, who had been sworn-in as mayor just hours before.

A massive snowstorm always seems to throw Baltimoreans in a panic. No one feels the burden as acutely as the mayor, who is ultimately responsible for everything from clearing the streets to keeping residents safe.

The snow will be Rawlings-Blake's first challenge in office, just as it was for Clarence "Du" Burns in 1986 when he was sworn-in as mayor after William Donald Schaefer became governor.

The city's emergency operation center is set to open at 11 a.m. Friday, the director Bob Maloney said at the meeting.

More than 150 vehicles will plow the city's streets and scatter salt. The city currently has 5,800 tons and is expecting a shipment of more than 7,000 additional tons.

Employees who have city-owned SUVs are being asked to return them so they will be available for firefighters and police officers, Maloney said.

By Julie Scharper

Making the call about school closings

By the time most readers are picking up their newspapers, Ed Wildesen will have been up for hours, scouring his computer for weather forecasts. Wildesen, director of transportation in the Garrett County school system, is one of the key members of a team that makes the call that 5,000 schoolchildren and their parents are waiting to hear. So on a day like today, Wildesen is up by 3 a.m. But this isn't a job that he can do in his pajamas. "I get into the car and go. I will drive probably 30 or 40 miles," he said.

After his road trip, he'll phone colleagues around the county and a forecaster in Pennsylvania who has access to weather radar maps. He will touch base with 10 people before a final decision is made with the superintendent about whether to roll the buses. But he's hoping the snow holds off until evening.

Anne Arundel and St. Mary's County have already asked the state Department of Education for a waiver to the requirement that students be in school for 180 days every year. Whether they will get it is unclear. "We really take seriously the 180-day requirement," said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman.

In the meantime, the primary worry for the city schools chief operating officer, Keith Scroggins, was this: "With a storm of this magnitude, we want to make sure people aren't struggling to get home."

By Liz Bowie

Employers consider closing for the day

W.R. Grace and Co. handed out hundreds of snow scrapers to employees last winter, and this year put out "shoe grippers" at its office entryways. Both the scrapers and grippers, which slide over shoes, will likely be put to good use Friday.

Like many big employers around the Baltimore area, the Columbia-based maker of chemicals and sealants was monitoring storm forecasts Thursday and preparing to shut down if the snow starts mid-Friday as predicted.

"We're encouraging folks to take laptops home in case the storm arrives sooner than forecasters are predicting," said Andrea Greenan, a Grace spokeswoman. "Then they can stay in touch remotely."

The Social Security Administration, which employs 12,000 in Woodlawn, and Fort Meade, where some 35,000 people work, were among other big employers waiting and watching before deciding whether to tell employees to stay home or leave early. Catholic Relief Services decided Thursday to close its downtown Baltimore headquarters on Friday.

Fort Meade would close "if we get some accumulation and it looks like it's dangerous to drive," said Mary Doyle, a Fort Meade spokeswoman. "Then we start shutting things down: the gym, the bowling alley and the PX."

By Lorraine Mirabella

Hospitals fully staffed and ready for patients

Administrators at Baltimore-area hospitals were bracing Thursday for the weekend's expected snowstorm by fine-tuning contingency plans, jump-starting emergency command centers and making sleeping arrangements for critical staff, from hotel reservations to outfitting hospital units with free beds.

"We want our patients and family and friends to know that we have made preparations to be fully staffed and to take excellent care of our patients in spite of what the weather brings," said Ellen Beth Levitt, a spokeswoman at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Anne Arundel Medical Center and the University of Maryland Medical Center have volunteers with four-wheel-drive vehicles on hand to drive people to work if they can't make it on their own. During December's blizzard, GBMC used its emergency command unit to notify the National Guard to order a Humvee to pick up nurses who lived in rural Harford County and take them to the Towson hospital, said Michael Schwartzberg, a GBMC spokesman.

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