Federal officials declared a state of emergency in Maryland yesterday, making the state eligible for millions of dollars that will help pay the costs of the Blizzard of '93 and ease the sting on recession-tight budgets for local governments.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decision allows Maryland to recoup 75 percent of the costs of snow removal -- but only for "one lane in each direction of major roads and arteries for emergency access," the governor's office said.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer estimated the total costs for snow removal alone by state and local highway and public works crews at $22 million. Now, officials are waiting on details from FEMA about the rules defining road eligibility under the emergency declaration, which will set the amount of reimbursement.
"This snowstorm affected 20 states, and they're trying to be consistent," said state Emergency Management Director David McMillion.
FEMA spokesman Morrie Goodman said the money "is for arterial roads necessary for use by emergency equipment and not to clear everybody's street in the suburbs."
With an eye on yet another worrisome weather forecast, meanwhile, highway crews continued the work of clearing away snow -- from the Western Shore of the Chesapeake, where many back roads remained icy, to the mountain country and 20-foot drifts of Garrett County.
After a day of sunshine and relatively warm temperatures (above freezing, that is), the National Weather Service predicted more precipitation by early today -- and some of it could be icy.
Forecaster Amet Figueroa said that developing cloud cover should hold in enough warmth for much of the Baltimore area to miss a morning of mixed sleet and freezing rain, but the usually colder suburbs might not be so lucky.
The precipitation was expected to begin overnight in Western Maryland and move eastward, changing to rain in most places near sunrise, and perhaps back to snow showers tonight. In Garrett, "some accumulation is likely," Mr. Figueroa said.
In the area, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Harford counties decided to keep schools closed today.
In Baltimore, many major city arteries remained passable only as two-lane roads, slowing both the morning and evening rush-hour traffic.
Still, city officials said they planned to continue to concentrate on removing snow from secondary streets today and were satisfied with traffic movement.
"In most cases, the snow that remains on these arteries is frozen, and it's difficult for our plows to remove," said Vanessa Pyatt, a city public works spokeswoman.
"We're hoping the weather will lend some assistance. We'll be returning to those arteries at some point."
There were signs of a near return to normalcy in Baltimore: trash pickup resumes today from the street and alley sides of homes, and schools will open -- but two hours late.