Gov. Martin O'Malley defended the state's response to a vicious snowstorm that caused a nightmarish evening commute Wednesday, as authorities raised the storm-related death toll to three and utility crews continued working to restore power to thousands of homes.
O'Malley said the state threw "everything we had" at the storm, but the fast-falling snow and a slew of jackknifed trucks stymied road crews.
Now forecasters say snow-weary Marylanders might want to keep their shovels and scrapers handy. More snowy weather may be on the horizon.
The National Weather Service is watching two "clipper"-type storms that are expected to pass through Central Maryland in the next two days, the first on Friday morning. Neither will pack much moisture, so neither should drop more than an inch or so, forecasters said.
A more worrisome storm is due to arrive early next week, however.
The region's first major winter weather played a role in three fatalities, authorities said.
In Baltimore, a taxi driver was killed when his car caught fire, police said.
In Anne Arundel County, a 77-year-old man died after he was apparently hit by a truck with a plow. The victim was identified as Richard F. Oles, who coached fencing at Johns Hopkins University for 45 years.
The third snow-related victim was a 32-year-old Westminster man who collapsed in his driveway after his father saw him shoveling. Two motorists stopped to perform CPR, but Michael Harmony was pronounced dead at Carroll Hospital Center after suffering cardiac arrest, the Carroll County sheriff's office said.
Across the region, BGE crews were scrambling Thursday evening to restore electricity after the wet, heavy snow toppled tree limbs onto power lines. As of 7 p.m., about 46,000 customers remained without power, mostly in Anne Arundel County. The storm caused outages for more than 210,000 customers, BGE said.
With commuters swapping can-you-top-this tales of hours-long slogs home Wednesday evening, O'Malley said the state had the necessary equipment to contend with the storm. The problem, he said, was getting it where it was needed.
"Everything we had, we were throwing at it," O'Malley said Thursday afternoon at the state operations center in Hanover.
Highway officials said they were pressed by the quick rate of the snowfall and the sheer number of tractor-trailers that jackknifed on the roads — about 40 across the state.
The governor said people who left work early got home, while those who waited until the snow began falling ended up sitting on the road "with buckets of snow coming after them."
Many vehicles were abandoned along state highways, including dozens around the Beltway and Reisterstown Road — the scene of one of the worst backups that snarled and, for long stretches, altogether stopped Wednesday night's homeward commute.
The first storm-related death occurred Wednesday night in Northwest Baltimore. A taxi driver whose car got stuck in snow died when the vehicle caught fire and he couldn't get out, according to city police.
Police did not immediately identify the driver or the taxi company, pending notification of relatives. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after police and firefighters pulled up to the burning 2001 Ford at Grenada and Norfolk avenues in Forrest Park, authorities said.
Detective Kevin Brown, a city police spokesman, said the first 911 call came in at 11:30 p.m., and the man was pronounced dead at 11:40 p.m. He said the vehicle was "fully engulfed in flames." It is not yet clear how the car caught fire. Brown said the interior of the car filled with smoke and the victim was "apparently unable to get out of the vehicle and was overcome."
In Anne Arundel County, Oles, a Pasadena resident, was struck and killed by a truck with a plow early Thursday as he walked on Mountain Road near Edwin Raynor Boulevard, police said. The driver of the vehicle left the scene. The accident, which remains under investigation, was reported about 2:30 a.m., according to police.
In 45 years at Hopkins, Oles, a resident of the 100 block of Circle Road, coached the fencing team to a 642-195 dual meet record and was named the NCAA Southeast Region Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1996, according to a Baltimore Sun article from 2003. He produced 12 NCAA champions, U.S. National Open champions and U.S. Olympic team members. His Tri-Weapon Boys' Club turned out four national youth champions.
As a competitor, Oles was on the 1970 U.S. team that won the World Masters championship, the first world title for an American fencing team.
"I don't think I ever knew anybody who was so dedicated to one thing," said Dan Collins, co-founder of the Chesapeake Fencing Club, in an interview Thursday. "For Dick Oles, I think life was fencing, period. He lived to fence."
The official snow total at BWI-Marshall Airport was 7.8 inches through midnight Wednesday. That brings the season's total to 12.1 inches, just a half-foot shy of the seasonal average for Baltimore.