The bubble dome over the skating rink at Patterson Park collapsed during the 1996 snowstorm, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, and officials aren't taking any chances this time around.
Anywhere from four to 20 employees have been working around the clock to keep snow from accumulating on the heavy vinyl bubble that covers the structure of the Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro Family Ice Skating Center, said Bob Wall of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks.
The Baltimore Fire Department used a hose Tuesday night to spray the bubble, from the outside and from the inside, to break the snow and ice into smaller pieces so it would slide off easier, he said. Zamboni machines spread the pooling water.
Groups of employees have also been rocking the flexible panels back and forth to create vibrations that might knock snow to the ground, and the department rented a lift that rises 45 feet to get to the snow at the top.
Accumulations at the base can be just as dangerous, creating pressure on the sides of the dome, Wall said. Bobcat loaders have been running continuously to clear drifts from the sides as high as 8 feet.
"The snow just keeps coming as we try to shake it off," Wall said. "Any time you're trying to keep up with Mother Nature, you try to do the best you can."
In 1996, the bubble collapsed from two large tears, and repairs were estimated at as much as $250,000. Wall said the bubble was built differently this time around, but some of the same concerns remain.
"Right now," Wall said Wednesday afternoon, "we've got four very dedicated, part-time employees on duty, and it's amazing what they're doing for the city."
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