Dog stories, free-enterprise stories, deft-touch-in-the-kitchen stories, beginning and ending stories, and digging-out and digging-in stories were yesterday's order of the day in a snow-socked Maryland.
Neighbors, of course, were busily out helping neighbors.. Kids were delighting in a day off. Clerks were valiantly selling untold gallons of milk, working 15-hour, 18-hour, 26-hour shifts - but who would expect any different at a time of such cheerful stress?
This, on the other hand, was news:
Birth by toboggan
"My wife is expecting any day now," said Steve Jones, 34, gallantly trying to dig out his Jeep Cherokee, which was stuck in the middle of Powderview Court in Perry Hall.
"There aren't any doctors on this street. All I know is you're supposed to boil some water," Mr. Jones said.
"And scream a lot," added Keith Feathers, a friend who was helping him.
"And yell 'Push, push, push.' Other than that, I don't know what we'll do," said Mr. Jones.
It was a little dicier for Matt and Elizabeth Collison.
She went into labor about 12:30 a.m. yesterday at their home in Towson Estates, and because snow was blocking their alley, he couldn't get his four-wheel drive Trooper up to the house.
Neighbors, fortunately, were having a party, and they cheerfully volunteered a toboggan to get Mrs. Collison to the car. They bundled her out of the house, onto the toboggan, and pulled her across the snow through the dark, three-quarters of the way down the block to the waiting car.
Mr. Collison carried their 17-month-old daughter, Olivia, while Mrs. Collison sat on the toboggan laughing - and having contractions every three minutes.
At the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, there was no doctor to authorize the pain-killing epidural.
Mr. Collison got back into his Trooper, went and fetched the doctor (just in time), the baby - Charles Edward Collison IV, 7 pounds, 9 ounces - was born, and Mr. Collison took the doctor home again.
"The doc calls her the blizzard mom," Mr. Collison said. Mother and child are doing well.
In Annapolis, Dimitri Fotos, 40, hooked three Siberian huskies to his dog sled and whizzed past the stranded cars.
It was an unusual experience - usually, sled-dog racing around here consists of huskies pulling carts on wheels instead of sleds on blades. They often race on dirt.
But now conditions were perfect for Mr. Fotos' team: Sheena, Tasha and Shadow.
"They were so happy," he said. "We've been doing about six miles a day."
But if every dog has his day, yesterday wasn't it for Max, a Rottweiler-Husky in the Ellicott Meadows townhouse community in Howard County.
"I had to dig a path out back to walk the dog," said his owner, Christopher J. Francis, 33. "It's so deep right now that he doesn't sink far enough into the snow for his feet to touch the ground."
Timing is everything
"I opened at 8 o'clock and nobody came in," said Kim Chnthalath, 40, owner of the College Park Community Store, a half-block from the campus of the University of Maryland. "So I closed by noon. Then I drove around and I noticed there wasn't a 7-11 open for a couple of miles, so I'm back in business."
It paid off. By afternoon, customers were beating a path to his door.
Towson's business district was almost completely shuttered yesterday morning, but a hardy bunch of workers arrived at Hudson Trail Outfitters Ltd. via cross-country skis, snowshoes and a mountain bike.
Shoveling snow in front of the York Road store - billed as "wilderness outfitting specialists - was Derik Spice. "It would be kind of hypocritical for us to be closed today. We're all about enjoying the outdoors," he said, covered head-to-toe in hard weather gear.
But valiant effort in the pursuit of business had its limits.
Tony Baltusis, a worker at Casa Mia in White Marsh, made nine deliveries yesterday morning before his feet became too numb to continue. Among them: a shrimp basket, a small pizza and one Lotto ticket. He quit because of the snow and because of no walks shoveled. "Try balancing a pizza in one hand and being up to your knees in snow," he said.
In Annapolis, the Ram's Head Tavern on West Street was packed by mid-afternoon. People stood waiting for tables, drinking beer, watching the first sun in two days appear on snow-covered streets.
"People were probably going stir crazy from being in all day yesterday," said Paula Muehlhauser, whose husband, Bill, owns the place.
Doug Harris and Mike Lawson were not complaining as they sipped microbrews at the Ram's Head bar. They were glad to have some place to go after being stuck in the house since Sunday morning. Mr. Harris does computer work for a federal government sub-contractor which was not open yesterday. Mr. Lawson called his Washington law firm several times in the morning. No answer. No work. No problem. Have a beer. Or two.
Chef Tim Mullen had the menus all planned. But when the storm hit, the banquets at the Stouffer Renaissance Hotel canceled.
Mr. Mullen and his sous-chef, Mike Folz, nonetheless had 500 stranded guests to feed. So they took a little of this and a little of that and voila!
A dinner buffet featuring honey-glazed pork loin, garlic-seared monkfish with a white bean salad, grilled striploin with peppered shallots and mushrooms. All for $14.95.
"We had to wing it," said Mr. Mullen, 33.
And the staff pitched in to help: Dishwashers cleaned tables, bellmen and valet parkers filled water glasses.
The hotel's contribution to a fund-raiser for the Maryland Food Bank - 110 pounds of smoked turkey chili - was dispatched to the group even though the event was canceled.
The Stouffer's kitchen also shipped bread, canned goods and other staples to soup kitchens around town. And Mr. Mullen's crew prepared deli platters for the dozens of police officers at Baltimore's Central [See Rodricks, 7a] District and the National Guard troops assisting them.
"A lot of businesses have the luxury to close when the weather's bad," said Gary Oster, the hotel manager. "And we hear about how the postman gets through no matter what, rain sleet or snow. In the hotel business we never close, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Digging all morning
The third try's a winner.
A Baltimore county snowplow driven by Jay Schiefflet ran into a snow-covered ditch in the 2200 block of Lodge Forest Road in eastern Baltimore County just after 7 a.m. yesterday.
Another county truck came to pull it out, but its chain snapped.
Next came a rescue truck from the North Point Edgemere Volunteer Fire Rescue. That truck, driven by Paul Rice, tried to winch it out but kept sliding. Finally another snow plow was hooked to the rescue truck.
But now, an elaborate mailbox in the shape of the home of Pat and Terry Harlow was in danger. Mr. Harlow asked the rescue team to saw down its post. Cut down it was.
The second truck and rescue vehicle winched out the snow plow about 11:30 a.m., ending Mr. Schiefflet's four-hour adventure with 10 truck and volunteer people on the scene. The Harlows shot video of the action. Said Mr. Rice: "It's part of the job."
Digging since 1945
Good neighbors thrive in the 2500 block of Sidney Avenue, off Waterview Avenue in Westport, southwest Baltimore.
Lois Talley provided the hot chocolate as six families repeated a ritual that for some has gone back to 1945: shoveling each other's cars out.
"They're beautiful neighbors," Mrs. Talley said. "We help each other every year.
"I used to dig myself, but now I'm 72 and my husband, James, is 75. He does a little but the other folks shovel most.
"I made chocolate a couple of times during the day today. Tonight when it gets colder, different neighbors will have hot dogs and rolls and other food. We've known each other for years and do this every winter storm.
L "This is a beautiful human interest story, don't you think?"
Austen on snow
The Senator movie theater on York Road, featuring Emma Thompson's new film, taken from a Jane Austen novel, wasn't looking for customers yesterday. The marquee read:
"If you have any
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY