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Record blizzard brings out sleds and snowblowers in Catonsville

Sledding at CCBC hill is a Catonsville tradition

More than a hundred people flocked to a hill on the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus Monday afternoon after a record-setting blizzard dumped more than two feet of snow on the Baltimore area.

The hill, a sharp drop that eases over a few hundred yards, is perfect for sledding, families said. Some have been going there for generations. On inner tubes, sleds, body boards, snow boards and plastic discs, people of all ages laughed and screamed on their way down.

The spot is so well known for sledding, the college has put up a permanent "Sleigh ride at own risk" sign.

Soubia Balkhi, who recently moved to the area from Richmond, Va., took two of her children sledding on the hill for the first time. She promised them they would go if their road in Windsor Hills was cleared.

"We pretty much had cabin fever," she said.

Being stuck inside two days wasn't all bad, however. Balkhi said she got to teach her daughter how to sew.

"We got to spend good family time together we might have missed out on otherwise," she said.

Many other families at the hill have been going there for generations. Arian Wood of Catonsville went when she was a child and was back with a 5-year-old of her own.

"It's local. Everybody can get here pretty easily," she said. "A lot of people come here because they know their friends will be here."

Cynthia Trump, of Catonsville, brought two daughters to go sledding Monday. Trump has found memories of the hill, including a time her father bought a tractor-trailer inner tube for her and her sister. So many kids piled on, the tube ended up going down the hill without her.

"It's always been a fun place," she said.

The lone sledder in a field south of University of Maryland Baltimore County on Monday morning, 4-year-old Declan Stokes conquered a berm of plowed ice and slush, climbed to the precipice of the 20-foot hill and hopped onto a lime-green disc.

"Do you want to see how fast my sled goes?" he asked.

He pushed off and slid to the bottom, but wasn't fully satisfied with the run. On his second attempt he slid the farthest he had so far that day, about 30 feet.

"It's like a rocket ship," he said.

His grandfather brought the sled to his home in Halethorpe that Friday, just before the largest snowstorm in Baltimore history.

At age 4, Stokes wasn't around for the blizzard of 2010, and this was the first time he had seen this much snow. When he saw the snow he was excited and amazed, his father said.

"He wanted to go down in the middle of the night to play," David Stokes said.

He and other Arbutus residents had to wait for the storm to pass Sunday to get outside again. The storm began Friday evening, and by the time it stopped snowing Saturday night about 261/2 inches had fallen in Catonsville.

As the Stokeses were playing on Monday, on Poplar Avenue in Arbutus other residents were digging out their vehicles. David Michaels Smardon and his father were digging out his black car, using two shovels and a broom.

"For me, it's the worst as far as the amount," he said.

Plows had reached their narrow road, clearing the street but covering cars along the way.

"Whatever the plow pushes you have to scoop up," he said.

The pair carefully stuck shovels into the snow, stopping just short of the vehicle's doors, breaking off big blocks of snow at a time.

"There is a car under here," David George Smardon said.

Across the street, Jim Mason was helping his neighbors clear their driveway using a snowblower.

"They're in their 80s," he said. "They've been good neighbors to us."

On Sunday, Mason was out from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. clearing his vehicle and property. He said others neighbors on the street have been helping each other, including a father and son down the street who cleared a nurse's driveway for her before handling their own.

"Everyone knows everyone; everyone helps everyone," he said.

Roads update

Roads should be cleared by Wednesday. Contact the Department of Public Works at snow@baltimorecountymd.gov if your street hasn't been reached. Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County, asks residents to clear areas around fire hydrants and storm drains if they haven't already.

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