Howard County officials said Thursday that three county men died after suffering heart attacks while outside their homes during the snowstorm, and that two were shoveling snow when they collapsed.
The first incident occurred just after 9:30 a.m., when a witness called an ambulance after seeing a man collapse while shoveling. The man, 56-year-old Richard Tucker of the 1600 block of Woodstock Road in Woodstock, was transported to Howard County General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to county fire department spokesman Marc Fisher.
The second incident happened just after 10:30 a.m., in the 9700 block of Owen Brown Road in Columbia. According to emergency officials, James Wells, 57, collapsed outside his home. Wells' family and several bystanders called 911, but rescuers were unable to resuscitate him at the scene, officials said.
According to Fisher, the third incident, and the second officials confirmed was related to shoveling, involved Kenneth Frame, 61, in the 5000 block of Southern Star Terrace in Columbia. A witness called 911 after seeing Frame collapse. Frame was taken to Howard County General Hospital shortly after noon, where he was pronounced dead.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman urged county residents to be careful.
"This is deep, heavy snow, and I implore everyone to take it easy," he said. "Please don't over-exert yourself. Clear a little at a time. Or ask a neighbor to help. We need to pitch in as a community during times like these. If you know of a neighbor who could use assistance, please offer to do a little shoveling. We can't prevent all emergencies, but we can take smart steps to be safe and help others."
Dr. Eric Aldrich, the vice president for medical affairs at Howard County General Hospital, offered tips on how to shovel safely.
"In general, there's two kinds of problems that doctors worry our patients can have [while shoveling]," he said. "One has to do with neck and back issues and the other is cardiac. On the cardiac side, if you have any history of cardiac disease, and especially if you are over 40, you shouldn't be doing any sort of physical exertion, shoveling or otherwsie, without consulting a physician."
People who have a history of shortness of breath or discomfort after walking up a flight of stairs should also get checked out, he said. And people with a family history of heart disease and stroke before the age of 60 should have a checkup, even if they feel healthy.
"Many times when people have sudden death, they don't have previous cardiac history," he said.
He said Maryland's humid climate made for wetter -- and heavier -- snow.
"One thing you have to keep in mind is wet snow weighs so much more than drier snow and in Maryland... we don't get that powder they get out in Utah," he said. The bottom line, Aldrich said, was to avoid overexertion. "Any pain, any shortness of breath, any chest discomfort -- you need to stop," he said. While much of the county was shut down for the day because of snow, Howard County government agencies were working to respond to the storm.
Howard County requested six National Guard vehicles to assist with transportation during Thursday's snowstorm, county officials said.
The vehicles can help with transportation in critical situations, like helping medical staff get to and from Howard County General Hospital, Nitkin said.
Nitkin said it will take about 12 to 15 hours to clear out all cul de sacs and internal streets in neighborhoods once that stage of the snow removal process starts. "It hasn't yet," he said. "[Department of Public Works] crews are keeping an eye on the timing of the next band that is coming through and expected to dump another 2 to 4 inches. DPW crews would prefer to go through just once."
Nitkin said there were extra police on duty today in case wires come down and disrupt power at intersections. "So far, none of those, but we are prepared for the high winds later," he said.
Howard County public schools and offices are closed. All athletic practices and games have been canceled.
Howard County government offices are closed, and trash and recycling pick-up were canceled. It will resume on the county's sliding-scale schedule.
All Department of Recreation and Parks activities for the day were canceled, and all county parks and community centers are closed. The Circuit and District courts are closed, as well.
All Howard County public libraries are closed.
All CMRT Local, CMRT Access, Howard Transit Local and HT Ride buses have been suspended for the rest of the day. The I-95 subscription bus will not run, either.
Columbia Association sport and fitness facilities are closed, except for the Supreme Sports Club.
The county's Snow Emergency Plan is in effect, which means parking is prohibited on designated snow emergency routes.
A Board of Education meeting scheduled for Thursday evening will be held next Thursday, Feb. 20.
A Howard County delegation hearing on state issues and two local bills were canceled.