Oakenshawe residents try to dig out as city plows struggle to reach them

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In Hampden, pizza restaurant Angelo's Pie in the Sky opened to help the homeless during the snow storm.

Oakenshawe resident Lynda-Marie Allen rejoiced as she saw a snowplow come down her street Saturday.

"It's a miracle!" she posted on Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods.

But by Tuesday, Oakenshawe residents still had their work cut out for them as they continued digging out their streets and cars after a record-breaking blizzard that dumped more than 29 inches of snow on the Baltimore region. As late as Tuesday morning, one resident reported on Nextdoor that two vehicles were stuck on University Place, and a U.S. Postal Service truck was stuck on Guilford Terrace.

The community was a case in point of how snowed under North Baltimore was. Oakenshaw Place was barely passable Monday evening — even after members of the Johns Hopkins University women's lacrosse team helped residents shovel.

And as some residents shoveled in the dark on Oakenshaw Place, neighbors on a nearby street sent out an urgent announcement on Nextdoor, saying, "Please come out and support our shoveling efforts on Birkwood Place. We have started and can use all of the help we can get."

The effort on Birkwood Place was scheduled to continue Tuesday afternoon, according to a subsequent post.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who represents much of North Baltimore, said Tuesday that the storm overwhelmed the city government's stated goal of plowing side streets at the same time as main roads. When asked if the goal was achieved, she said, "Apparently not. I'm past that ideal."

Some of her constituents were "at wits' end," including a dialysis patient whom Clarke made arrangements to get to a doctor, and several women who were nine months' pregnant, she said.

"People are still stuck. I'm one of them," said Clarke, who lives on Cloverhill Road in Tuscany-Canterbury and served as an information clearinghouse and point person during and after the storm. She said she arranged for a friend to pick her up and take her to a scheduled City Council meeting.

"I think a fully operational effort (by city officials to plow side streets) is underway but not on the ground yet," Clarke said. "I know they're sending out vehicles, but they haven't reached the neighborhoods yet."

In Hoes Heights, a snowplow got stuck and a second one was sent in, Clarke said. She said she has sent the city's emergency management officials a long list of unplowed roads, including Wickford Road in Keswick, Gorsuch Avenue in Waverly, 30th Street in Abell and 37th Street in Hampden.

Digging out

Some residents mistook the city's inability to reach them for neglect.

"The city has been prioritizing snow removal based on emergency routes, medical facilities, etc., but now we need to remind the city not to forget about us," an Oakenshawe resident posted on Nextdoor.

The Nextdoor site for Oakenshawe was abuzz with advice, such as not to use furniture to reserve parking spaces, because it might get stolen. There were recommendations from families that hired people to shovel alleys, and words of gratitude to the "mystery cleaner" of University Parkway.

Another post announced that several snowblowers the community had been using succumbed to the storm and no longer worked.

Many Oakenshawe residents started cleaning up after the storm as soon as it stopped, and resident Will Sweet, 27, shoveling Sunday on Oakenshaw Place, said he started Friday during the storm, and then got up early Sunday morning to shovel some more, including his cars, the street and a back deck over his kitchen.

"It's been slow going," he said.

Alejandro Prada, 44, shoveling on Homewood Terrace, said Baltimore City seemed responsive in plowing main streets soon after the storm, but crews complicated matters by pushing snow to the end of side streets like Oakenshawe Place, effectively blocking them off and creating more work for residents, who had hardly any place to put all the snow they shoveled.

Prada, a native of Colombia, South America, was fatalistic. "You know what? We live in a place that has snow," he said. "It's normal. But it takes a lot of work."

Evan Grove, 35, did the near-impossible, spending three hours to dig out his 2014 Subaru Forester on Homewood Terrace and then turning it around in the snowy road to get to better-plowed Calvert Street.

"It's reasonable," he said. "It's passable."

There was immediate, short-term fallout for Oakenshawe from the storm, the biggest single snowfall in Baltimore City's history. Monday was supposed to be the evening for residents to pick up their annual Area I Residential Permit Parking passes that they had ordered from the city online, but the pickup was postponed, because the location, the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, was closed.

Through it all, residents kept their chins up.

"I think it was fun," said Christina Enzmann, watching her husband, Prada, shovel, while their children and the neighbors' children sledded and made an igloo and a snowman. And Enzmann said food and supplies were withing walking distance, because, "Eddie's was open."

Good samaritans

She was referring to Eddie's market in Charles Village, owned by Jerry Gordon, who was in sunny Marco Island, Fla., when he heard that the blizzard in Baltimore was imminent.

Gordon said he and his wife, Darlene, who works alongside him at the store, cut short their vacation and rushed home ahead of the storm. On Friday night, they slept on a queen-sized air mattress in his office, two doors from the store at 3117 St. Paul St., and by 8 a.m. Saturday, they were open for business, albeit without any customers yet.

"I've got seven people in here working," said Gordon, who was determined to stay open, because his 53-year-old store is a popular walking destination for area residents and students from Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.

One employee, Mike Childress, came from Dundalk and picked up five other employees in his Dodge Durango. Another, James Canapp, 33, of Waverly, walked 10 blocks to work at 6:20 a.m., although he's normally a nighttime supervisor at Eddie's.

"By the time I got down my steps, I was up to my waist with (snow) drifts," Canapp said. "It took me almost 40 minutes to get here."

Altruism showed up in other ways during the storm, too. In Hampden, the owner of the pizzeria Angelo's Pie in the Sky opened Saturday in an effort to feed any needy or homeless people in the Hampden area. The eatery used to be Angelo's Pizza, but moved last year from Keswick Road to the 15th (roof-level) floor of a senior high-rise apartment building at 3838 Roland Ave., and was renamed Angelo's Pie in the Sky.

The owner, Angelo Pizza (his real name) was picked up at his house in Hampden in a Humvee by Northern District police officers and a National Guardsman, who drove him to the restaurant, said police Maj. Robert Gibson, Northern District commander.

"The only reason we're open today is to feed the homeless," said Pizza, who cooked up the idea with Clarke and Fred Wilhelm, president of the high-rise's board of trustees. "We want people to know there's a meal waiting for them."

Wilhelm said Clarke was instrumental in helping to arrange for Pizza to be picked up. The idea started when Clarke, who represents much of North Baltimore, was contacted by a constituent asking if there was anything that could be done to help the homeless, Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said Clarke then called him, because she knew that he was actively involved in a food pantry at Hampden United Methodist Church, run by the Hampden-Remington-Woodberry-Mount Washington Christian Fellowship, a consortium of area churches.

Wilhelm said he called Pizza, who runs the restaurant in Wilhelm's apartment building, St. Mary's Rolandview Towers, and Pizza agreed to come in. Wilhelm also said that Clarke made arrangements to have homeless people picked up the same way Pizza was, and to take them to homeless shelters after their meal.

Wilhelm said he was eager to help.

"Being a Christian, that's what we do," he said.

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