The year wasn't a week old when Mayor Sheila Dixon announced, on Jan. 6, that she was resigning as part of a plea deal to end a corruption investigation. Her exit a month later catapulted City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake into the hot seat as Baltimore's 49th chief executive.

The new mayor's pledge: To "build a better, safer, stronger Baltimore." But first, she had to help the city dig itself out. Back-to-back blizzards dumped several feet of snow, briefly turning Baltimore into Syracuse-on-the-Patapsco.

Later in the year, a different double-whammy — two major fires — struck downtown in a span of hours. Miraculously, there were few injuries and no deaths, but just a week later yet another blaze killed six members of one family.

This year also brought its share of high-profile crimes: A doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital was shot and wounded by an elderly patient's distraught son. Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia lacrosse player from Cockeysville, was killed in Charlottesville, Va. An off-duty Baltimore police officer fatally shot an unarmed ex-Marine outside a Mount Vernon nightclub.

And it was a year of political change beyond City Hall. City voters ousted State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy in September's Democratic primary, electing a new top prosecutor, Gregg Bernstein, who declared winning the easy part: "The tough part, making Baltimore safe, starts now."

Some local issues made it all the way to Congress. Questions about the necessity of heart stents implanted by a doctor at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson spurred a U.S. Senate investigation. And The Baltimore Sun revealed a Baltimore police culture of discarding rape reports — revelations that prompted congressional hearings and sweeping reforms.

Look inside for a recap of the top local stories of 2010.

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