Baltimore officials don't know how long it will take to clear snow, but it will be costly

It could take days for neighborhood streets to be plowed, city officials say.

Baltimore City officials gave no estimate Monday of how much of the city's 5,000 miles of roadway — more than half of it smaller, neighborhood streets — had been plowed after the weekend's record snowfall.

And they gave no estimate of how long it could take for the city to be snow-free. The monumental cleanup, however, will be expensive.

"When you do have a storm of historic proportion, the budget will be historic as well," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference.

She did not say what the storm will likely cost Baltimore.

Meanwhile, city government offices will open at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and liberal leave will be in effect for non-essential employees, the mayor said. Therefore, residents who have been using free parking at four designated city-owned garages will need to remove their cars by 6 a.m. Tuesday, the city said.

Rawlings-Blake urged businesses to be flexible with employees. Some 65 car crashes were reported Monday in the city, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. So driving conditions remain dangerous.

Rawlings-Blake said she had brought in more than 500 additional pieces of specialized equipment to assist the city's response to the more than two feet that fell from Friday through Sunday and shattered the previous city snowfall record.

Many of Baltimore's main roads had been plowed Monday morning, but residents in neighborhoods across the city complained that smaller streets had not yet seen a plow. William Johnson, the city's transportation director, said it could be days before all 3,600 miles of side streets are cleared.

On side streets where snow remains untouched, the mayor said, the fluffy powder has melted and re-frozen into unplowable masses that require construction equipment to pick up, load into dump trucks and drive away.

"It has only been 36 hours ago that the snow stopped falling in what was the largest snowfall in Baltimore's history," Rawlings-Blake said. "Needless to say the recovery is going to take time."

Roadways remain under Phase II of Baltimore City's Snow Emergency Plan.

The city is focusing efforts on streets around schools in hopes of reopening them quickly. City schools will be closed on Tuesday, however.

Children may still receive meals Tuesday at 19 recreation centers around the city. Call 211 or 311 for locations.

No one has died in Baltimore due to the storm, and emergency responders have been able to get to all of the hundreds of calls they've received, officials said. The city is deploying 50 to 60 inspectors around the city on 12-hour shifts to determine which streets have been plowed and which still require attention, Johnson said.

The Department of Public Works has rescheduled Tuesday trash pickups to Saturday, and the city landfill and citizen drop-off sites remain closed.

More than 300 vehicles had been towed from emergency snow routes and other roadways as of Monday, Johnson said. Officials asked residents to shovel their sidewalks, especially around storm drains and fire hydrants, and to refrain from shoveling snow back onto plowed streets.

Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Prudente contributed to this report.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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