In the aftermath of the season's first major storm, Baltimore-area residents struggled to clear sidewalks, driveways and cars of the wet, heavy snow.
"It's just back-breaking, but you got to do what you got to do. At least it's not as bad as last year," said Steve DiCarlo, who was shoveling the sidewalk in his neighborhood along Reisterstown Road on Thursday as his three excited puppies watched.
Arnie Sagal had tried to get ahead of the game — beginning his dig at 1 a.m. Thursday to make it to work at the Giant supermarket in Owings Mills' New Town Village by 4 a.m. Still, his four hours of work was no match for the daunting piles of snow and stranded cars that still lined his neighborhood around 9 a.m.
As the sound of tires screeching and the smell of burning rubber began to fill the air, Sagal abandoned h's hope to make it to work.
"I'm not doing that to my 1-year-old car," he said. "This is just ... ridiculous."
But the deep snow — nearly a foot in some areas — also provided some business opportunities for Ayd Hardware, a family-owned business on York Road south of Towson.
"We've had a lot of people come in and say they need a new shovel because their old one broke," said manager C.J. Ayd. "This is such a heavy snow that it tends to break a lot of shovels."
Last year, when the region was hit with a pair of back-to-back snowstorms, the small store sold 1,200 shovels in a matter of days. In anticipation of another winter storm this year, Ayd said the store pre-ordered 2,000 shovels and scheduled weekly ice-melt deliveries.
One item Ayd said he can't seem to keep in stock is sleds. He was completely sold out by Wednesday afternoon. "Those things are flying off the shelves right now."
In Glen Burnie, Alice Kammerer, 87, pulled on her hat and shoveled a 60-foot path around her home for the second time in two days. "I can't do too much because I've got back problems," she said, but added that she was taking it slow and was thankful that her home hadn't lost electricity.
In Baltimore, Celine Plachez and her husband, Stephan Vigues, remembered how much their 31/2-year-old son enjoyed last year's snowstorms. " 'Big snow' is what he calls it," she said. So Thursday, they told Pierre they'd take him sledding at Federal Hill Park a couple of blocks from their home.
"What's a sled?" he asked his parents, research scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who were enjoying their employer's liberal-leave policy.
Pierre's memory was refreshed by a couple of runs down the west side of the hill with his father, who dragged his feet on either side of the sled to keep a child-safe speed.
"It's more fun this year," Vigues said, "because he's not as afraid as he was last year."
Bigger kids also took to the hill, even the steeper and infinitely scarier north slope that threatens to propel sledders onto busy Key Highway.
"This is nothing compared to last year, but it's still cold and wet and fun," said Dakota Walk, 15, who lives in Baltimore County but took the opportunity of a day off from Lansdowne High School to accompany his brother, Nathan, 20, on a visit to Federal Hill.
For Nathan Walk, a construction worker whose girlfriend lives in the neighborhood, Thursday was a reward for surviving Wednesday's deluge of icy snow, which made for dangerous driving. "Today, we're just going to sled and have snowball fights."
Donna Brill, who works for Baltimore County, also got some enjoyment from the storm. As she took advantage of the county's liberal-leave policy Thursday, she admired the snow-covered trees glowing in the sunshine near Reisterstown Road. "It's gorgeous," she said, cleaning off her niece's car.
She snapped a picture of the scene — and the completely coated car — to send to her niece, who is in the Bahamas. She included a message with the picture that read, "Hope you're having fun."
Andrew Cohen, a fifth-grader at the Chatsworth School in Reisterstown, was less happy.
He was excited to have a second day off from school this week, but the fact that residents were willing to dig themselves out made it a less productive day for his shoveling business.
"Since everyone else is trying to shovel out, we can't do it. That's usually our winter business," said Cohen, who with his friends made about $160 shoveling out walkways and cars after last year's storms.
Still, he and a friend were looking ahead, taking stock of houses that could yield enough money for next season's business.
"Actually, we're thinking about a summer business," he said, "and if we can make a little snow money, we can buy a snowball machine and sell them at the pool."
Baltimore Sun reporters Kevin Van Valkenburg, Mary Gail Hare, Andrea F. Siegel
and Jean Marbella contributed to this article.