Storm mostly spares Baltimore, but strands travelers

Farther north, snow, winds cancel flights, shut down airports

December 27, 2010|By Nicole Fuller and Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

Stefanie and Steve Taylor left their Anne Arundel County home by car with their two children a couple of days before Christmas and headed to Connecticut to celebrate the holiday with family.

They planned to spend Christmas with Stefanie's 71-year-old mother and other family in Redding, Conn., and then head home to Arnold on Sunday, well-rested and ready to return to their office jobs in Baltimore on Monday.

Then the blizzard hit.

"We just want to get out of here," Stefanie Taylor said Monday over the phone from her mother's home. She had organized a family Scrabble game and a gingerbread man decorating contest to keep Dylan, 9, and Charlotte, 20 months, entertained. "Everybody's stir-crazy."

Though the Baltimore region was spared the brunt of the monster storm that blanketed much of the Northeast on Sunday, Marylanders visiting relatives were left stranded and frustrated Monday, with flights canceled and roadways too dangerous for travel.

Strong winds complicated travel long after the snow stopped falling, driving drifts onto newly plowed roads, airport runways and railroad tracks. Gusts in Maryland peaked at 66 mph at Camp David in the Catoctin Mountains of Western Maryland, 51 mph at Martin State Airport in Baltimore County and 46 mph at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

New York's three major airports were closed; Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier at BWI, canceled nearly a third of its departing flights Monday. Amtrak canceled several trains between Boston and Washington on Sunday and has since run a "limited" schedule between New York and Boston.

While Maryland largely dodged the heavy snowfall — accumulations in the Baltimore area reached about 2 inches — winds were blamed for several accidents along Route 59 in Wicomico and Worcester counties on the Eastern Shore.

Sgt. Kevin Beauchamp of the Maryland State Police barracks in Salisbury said troopers were handling 10 to 15 calls an hour for minor accidents on state roads on Sunday afternoon and evening, but the number had dwindled to about one an hour by late Monday afternoon. He said he'd seen drifts of 2 to 3 feet in in the easternmost sections of Wicomico.

Sgt. Brian Bonnell of the state police barracks in Easton said traffic accidents were "minor but prevalent" during the height of the storm.

Maryland Natural Resources Police officers broke through ice on Monday to rescue two duck hunters who were stranded on Hart-Miller Island on the Chesapeake Bay.

The men took on water soon after leaving Rocky Point about 8 a.m. in their 14-foot aluminum boat. Todd Troxell, 40, of Codorus, Pa., was issued a citation for negligent operation, police said. He told police he did not check weather reports before heading out.

By the weekend, meteorologist Bob Larson said, the snow will be little more than a slushy memory. The forecast calls for rain and temperatures near 50 by the end of the week.

But that was little consolation for stranded travelers.

Victoria Richard flew to Boston before Christmas with her boyfriend, Will Lesevers, and an efficient travel plan: first head to Portland, Maine, to visit her family, and then to Sandown, N.H. to see his. The couple — she lives in Mount Vernon, he lives in Fells Point — planned then to hop on a flight from Boston back to Baltimore late Sunday night.

The flight was canceled, but she was able to get another scheduled for early Tuesday. She said her bosses at the Office of Policy Coordination at the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University were "really understanding."

"It's that time of the year where things have quieted down," she said. "So that helps."

When Eric Laverick's flight from Boston to Baltimore was canceled Sunday, Airtran told him he could not reschedule until Friday.

The Baltimore man had been visiting family in the southern New Hampshire town of Windham, so he checked on Southwest and found a 4:45 p.m. flight from nearby Manchester.

Laverick, his wife and young son were anxious to get back and see their cat after three days away. But he said things could have been more stressful.

"I'm off all week, luckily."

Baltimore Sun reporter Andy Rosen and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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