No need to dream of a white Christmas this year. With nearly two feet of the stuff on the ground thanks to last weekend's record December snowstorm, anything short of a sustained tropical heat wave between now and Friday has pretty much guaranteed that snow will still be blanketing the region for the holiday.

And while the storm caused no small inconvenience to people - for retailers, losing the Saturday before Christmas, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, is particularly worrisome - it's hard not to view the big storm of 2009 as something of a success.

First, it was fortunate to have happened on a Saturday, when most people do not commute to work and when they have Sunday to dig themselves out. Even the nature of the snow - a powdery type that was more easily dealt with than ice or sleet - proved helpful.

By all accounts, road crews have done well, particularly in areas north and west of the city that received slightly less snowfall. The Baltimore beltway and I-95 were absolutely pristine by Sunday morning, an impressive feat considering the amount of snow that fell.

Only the side streets, as usual, posed a problem, but even that more daunting snow-removal effort seemed improved over the response to the 28-inch snowfall of February 2003 that so overwhelmed the region. That's remarkable given the economic recession and budget reductions local governments have had to make this year.

While generosity and neighborly helpfulness can't be measured as easily as inches of snow, there was evidence of a great deal of both on display over the weekend from throughout the region. Digging out cars, sidewalks and driveways is no easy task, but the load is surely lightened when people help each other.

The Baltimore area does not deal with storms of this magnitude as often as our northern neighbors, but it could be that we're learning. Of the 10 biggest snowstorms since record-keeping began in the 1880s, Baltimore has experienced three in the last 13 years and five in the last 30.

Still, there's at least one city snow-related tradition that deserves to be retired. The tendency of some to use lawn chairs or similar objects to reserve parking spots on public streets is neither legal nor neighborly, whether you're the one who cleared snow from the spot or not.

School systems took the cautious approach and chose to close yesterday, many conceding to Mother Nature by Sunday afternoon. That may delight students now, but the winter of 2009-2010 is forecast to be cold and snowy, so extra classroom days next June are a distinct possibility.

Perhaps, then, it would be best to take a lesson from this experience and stock up in the weeks ahead in salt, shovels and other equipment and avoid the night-before lines in stores. There's even a possibility of freezing rain on Christmas Eve - not quite as pleasant an experience as powdery snow but perhaps typical of the winter ahead.

Readers respond

I find it disturbing and sad that it was more important to clear M&T; Bank stadium of snow for the Sunday Ravens game than to help the elderly and sick of the city and surrounding areas clear their walks.

It would have been such a beautiful and wondrous thing to have the same amount of energy and time and manpower work for a greater good - not just for sports fans.

Diane Chatham

What can I say? Baltimore loves their Ravens. I thought it was pretty cool that over 600 people volunteered to clean out the stadium. It is a sign of solidarity and shows that Baltimoreans are willing to come together and support our local sports team.

Although I agree that it would have been nice to put forth a similar effort to help the elderly, I don't think it is fair to condemn all those who worked so hard in such extreme conditions. The real story is what happened, not what "should" have happened.

John Luoma

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