Digging out

State digging out after being hit by up to 3 feet of accumulation

BWI paralyzed

county officials say clear your own road

February 07, 2010|By Timothy B. Wheeler, Jacques Kelly and Liz Bowie | Baltimore Sun reporters

Digging out of the great snow of February 2010 is going to take a while, county and city officials said on Sunday, and freeing every neighborhood may take some shoveling from residents.

Most main roads are now in good shape, transportation officials say, but smaller, secondary roads will take more time to clear with freezing temperatures making it difficult to push two feet of snow off the roads.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is reporting that nearly 16,000 customers are still without power, including 6,500 in Anne Arundel County and 4,000 in Baltimore County. Buses are operating, but Baltimore- Washington International Thurgood Marshall and other regional airports remain closed.

In downtown Baltimore, chunks of ice were falling from high-rise buildings, and managers were erecting signs to warn pedestrians of the danger.

Baltimore County's Tim Burgess said the cold temperatures have made it impossible for smaller, less powerful snow trucks built for narrower streets to move the two-plus feet of snow.

"The smaller trucks aren't capable of pushing it because they don't weigh enough," Burgess said. And, he said, the larger trucks cannot fit down streets without risk of damage to car mirrors and doors.

So until temperatures rise, he suggested residents of small streets dig the street area in front of their homes. In addition, residents could help by cleaning out around fire hydrants near their house.

"We are really fighting it," said Kenny Gemmiol, Harford County superintendent of highways. "Subdivisions are a biggest problem."

Gemmiol estimated that his crews have gotten to only about 20 to 30 percent of the county's neighborhoods. Anne Arundel County executive John Leopold said that "arterial and collector" roads were in good shape, although they may not have all lanes open. Leopold has canceled trash and recycling pick up for Monday and Tuesday.

In Howard County, road crews had to revisit some main county roads overnight, but were working Sunday to clear secondary and residential roads, including cul de sacs.

It may be Monday evening or even Tuesday noon before all roads are passable, cautioned, county spokeswoman. Kathy Sloan-Beard said.

County Executive Ken Ulman acknowledged that residents may be getting "a little antsy" after being cooped up during the storm, but appealed for patience. He said he'd requested the use of snow removal equipment used by the county school system and by the Columbia Association to help clear roads.

"It's going to take a couple days to get to every street," Ulman said, noting that this was the biggest snowstorm Howard County has ever had. "This is different."

In Baltimore, the transportation department "will begin attacking secondary roadways by mid afternoon and we ask for everyone's patience," said Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesperson for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "This will be a tedious process that will involve both plowing snow and in some cases hauling it to another location. We ask those residents in good health to assist the recovery efforts by helping to shovel snow from walks, driveways and parking spaces. Please help those that may not be able to help themselves."

Howard residents can track the progress of snow plows online, Ulman pointed out, by going to the county Web site. Those with non-emergency questions may also call 410-313-2900.

Ulman said a final determination would be made later today, but he expected county government would operate Monday on a liberal leave policy.

Carroll County road crews were concentrating Sunday on clearing two passable lanes on all rural and subdivision roads by the end of the day.

But road chief Bob Manahan said that some plows were breaking down trying to push the heavy snow and he didn't know yet if they'd be able to clear all roads by this evening. The county has 25 loaders and graders deployed, plus more than 60 salt trucks to try to melt the ice.

Even so, with freezing temperatures expected at night, Manahan cautioned that the roads may be icy overnight and in the morning for the next couple days, at least.

Those who could dig out may have more places to go today, as a spokeswoman for General Growth Properties said that all its shopping malls in the Baltimore area would open as scheduled from noon to 6

President Barack Obama, used to the harsh winters of Chicago, jokingly called the paralyzing storm "a blizzard - Snowmaggedon."

But labeling it a blizzard was, at best, premature, according to the National Weather Service, which has yet to decide whether the storm met the definition.

It was, in any case, an event of epic proportions for Marylanders, posing herculean challenges for emergency responders and road crews trying to cope with blizzard-like conditions.

Snow fell and blew for more than 24 hours, smothering a six-state region from Ohio to New Jersey with a wet, white blanket at least a foot deep.

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