B&O Railroad Museum

A large portion of the roof of the B&O Railroad Museum in downtown Baltimore lies in ruins after collapsing Monday. (Sun photo by Doug Kapustin / February 18, 2003)

What felt like the worst snowstorm ever was indeed the Big One.

As Marylanders continued to dig out from beneath the wintry onslaught that began late Friday, resumed with a vengeance early Sunday and sputtered to a finish yesterday, the National Weather Service officially declared it the worst winter storm to hit the Baltimore region since record-keeping began in 1871.

The upgrading of the storm coincided with a rise in related deaths across the state. Four children perished inside snow-covered cars after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes, and a 64-year-old Baltimore man died of an apparent heart attack after shoveling snow.

Last night, officials were investigating more apparent carbon monoxide deaths -- of Johnathan Thomas, 20, and Allen Adams, 17, whose bodies were found in a car in the 1600 block of Northbourne Road in Northeast Baltimore, where they had apparently gone to smoke marijuana, city police said. The vehicle's exhaust pipe was obstructed by snow.

At least 10 deaths have been blamed on the storm.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. surveyed one of the most visible reminders of the storm's impact yesterday, the collapsed roof of the B&O Railroad Museum's historic roundhouse. During the visit, he said the state of emergency will remain in effect until this afternoon.

With above-freezing temperatures and sunshine beaming down, barricades of snow began to melt and the region slowly emerged from the agonizing crawl that had gripped it.

Mail was delivered. Buses and trains began limited service by midafternoon. Airplanes took to the skies. State legislators convened. And for the first time since Friday, there was such a thing as a morning commute -- at least for those who had to trudge to work on slushy highways.

But the annoyance remained. Schools systems across the region remain closed. American Red Cross officials worried about dwindling blood supplies. And snowbound residents in cul-de-sacs and in neighborhoods accessible only by narrow roads are left wondering: When will my street be plowed?

In Mount Washington, residents grew so desperate yesterday that they stood along Greenspring Avenue, waving their hands excitedly in an attempt to flag down a snowplow -- to no avail. It was just one more sign that homeowners with snow-packed driveways have lost their patience with what has become Maryland's unofficial winter sport: shoveling.

Cabin fever

"Several of my neighbors have already told me today, 'I've had enough, I'm getting cabin fever!'" said Deborah Seate, 51, who lives in Columbia's Village of Dorsey's Search. "They're walking up to the store just to get out of the house."

For a time, Seate enjoyed the peace and quiet that came with being cut off from the rest of the world by a wall of white. She made soup from scratch. She dug a tunnel out to her bird feeder. She rotated among shoveling, eating and taking naps.

But her street still wasn't plowed yesterday afternoon, and she's beginning to think longingly of "getting back to work and getting back to regular life." Her shovel is wearing out, for heaven's sake.

The main problem at the Howard County Emergency Operations Center was an unending barrage of telephone queries that began at 5 a.m. from residents who had shoveled out their vehicles but were waiting for county snowplows to clear their streets.

"Most people have been reasonable. They've been patient," said Al Ferragamo, the county's public works director. Given that, the county can handle the calls from a few who are "intense" about their unhappiness, he said.

Howard County officials expect to have all residential streets plowed today.

Equipment problems

In Baltimore, major roads were cleared yesterday, but side streets in residential neighborhoods continued to be impassable to cars.