Steady stream of traffic, few problems


By plane and train, but mostly by car, the crush of holiday-ending travelers wended its way through Maryland yesterday, largely avoiding the snowstorms and airport mishaps that afflicted many parts of the country over the Christmas weekend.

The state's major roads were thick with traffic much of the day, but no major accidents were reported.

A steady stream of travelers moved with ease in and out of the Maryland House rest stop along Interstate 95 near Aberdeen.

"It's been tough because of the traffic, but it's been OK overall, especially up here," said Desiree Williams, 25, on her way home to New York from Newport News, Va., which was buried under a foot of snow.

"There was a very fine line between heavy snow and no snow at all," said meteorologist Roger Smith in the Baltimore-Washington forecast office of the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "We were lucky."

The storm crossed North Carolina and southern Virginia on a northeasterly track that brought "light to moderate snow" to Maryland's Eastern Shore, Smith said. Salisbury had 1 1/2 inches of snow, and Ocean City had 4 inches.

In the Baltimore area, it was just cold and gray - and, by comparison, just fine for travel by air and rail.

Departures and arrivals at Baltimore-Washington International Airport benefited from the lack of snow, and experienced little more than ripple effects from problems that hit two airlines.

Luggage problems

Some US Airways passengers were separated from their luggage a fourth straight day yesterday, while Delta subsidiary Commair put some of its passenger planes back in the air a day after canceling all of its 1,100 flights.

At BWI, officials said baggage problems were relatively mild - US Airways does not use the airport as a major hub.

"Commair canceled two flights, but Delta was able to get all of the passengers on other flights," said airport spokeswoman Tracy Newman.

Outside Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore early yesterday afternoon, taxi driver Tsegaye Yitbarek said he had had few passengers, and most were area residents. He didn't expect the out-of-towners to need a lift to the train station or airport until later on.

So he had time to muse.

'Merry Christmas'

"But what I really want to say is why can't people in America say 'Merry Christmas' anymore?" said Yitbarek, 47, who moved to the Unites States from Djibouti. "I don't like saying 'Happy holidays.' I've been watching the debate on this on CNN."

His taxi sat at the station just as the 6:30 a.m. southbound Amtrak train from Springfield, Mass., pulled in, on time, at 12:42 p.m.

Dorothea MacNeil, 56, of Springfield and her high-school classmate Moira Neville, 56, of Chicopee, Mass., had been among the first to board when the day was still dark.

"There was a beautiful full moon, though," she said.

The friends from Springfield's Cathedral High School Class of 1966 were off to see a third friend waiting for them in Baltimore.

An hour earlier, the pair, dressed in heavy sweaters and covered by blankets, sat reclined in their train seats.

Not 'worth the hassle'

MacNeil's husband, daughter and son all work for the Transportation Security Administration, the arm of the federal government responsible for airport security. They were the ones who shooed MacNeil away from air travel this year.

"It just wasn't worth the hassle," she said, snapping a picture of a bridge as the train neared Baltimore. "And I think [train travel is] actually cheaper."

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