Work for some, play for others as Baltimore digs out from snow

Baltimore-area schools will remain closed for another day Tuesday as some businesses and government offices reopen and the region emerges from under the weekend's record-breaking snowfall.

Gov. Larry Hogan said the state of emergency he declared would remain in effect indefinitely, mainly to allow the Maryland National Guard to continue helping police and government agencies. The state sent a letter to the federal government Monday signaling its intent to pursue disaster assistance.


With area malls and some movie theaters open, major streets more passable, and public transit starting to get back on track, residents who were idled Monday by a day off from work or school found escape from their shovels.

"The kids needed to go out somewhere that wasn't snow-covered," Brendan Auvil said at Towson Town Center.


The Towson man, his wife, Jenn, and daughters Olive, 8, Amelia, 6, and Beatrice, 3, spent a couple of hours at the mall, which, like other shopping centers, reopened Monday.

"No one felt like sledding anymore," he said.

The unexpected vacation will come to an end soon for many: City government offices will open at 10 a.m. Tuesday, with liberal leave in effect for nonessential employees. The free parking that residents enjoyed at four city-owned garages is ending. Officials said drivers should remove their cars by 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Even as restaurants, stores and other businesses eagerly beckoned customers, officials continued to ask people to stay off the roads so crews could continue their plowing efforts.

Where to put all the snow they were moving proved challenging.

With the Ravens' season over, M&T Bank Stadium had room. Heavy construction equipment ferried grimy mounds of snow from downtown, dumping it in lots where tailgaters normally party.

On the stadium's south side, by the Ostend Street Bridge, the Maryland Stadium Authority created a snow-melting device in the form of a heated dumpster. As a worker dropped load after load of snow into it, steam poured out of the open top of the contraption.

Its creators called it "Snowtorious B.I.G."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the city has permission to dump snow in the harbor, if needed. In the meantime, she said, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh sent crews and equipment to help the city dig out.

That equipment included snowblowers, but not the usual type. These blowers, Rawlings-Blake said, could clean a traffic lane with one passing.

"That machine's like something I've never seen," she said.

Mike Roth of Bolton Hill spotted one of the Boston monster snowblowers as it cleared lanes on Interstate 83 on Monday afternoon.


"It's nice to see a city like Boston offering its resources to help Baltimore, especially after the winter they had up there last year," Roth wrote in a Twitter message.

For Baltimoreans without access to such powerful machinery, how to shift the snow remained a problem. Officials urged them to clear sidewalks, storm drains and the areas around fire hydrants, but not to shovel the stuff onto streets that plows were trying to clear.

"I ask you to be creative about where to put it, but just don't put it back out in the street, because it prevents us to get back up and running," Rawlings-Blake said.

And maybe, she said, consider leaving your car buried for now.

"I would encourage people to think about alternative means of transportation, and really think about, 'Do you have to go?'" the mayor said.

Snowbound residents who had to get to kidney dialysis and other necessary medical treatment were transported by the Fire Department and the National Guard, said Dr. Leana Wen, the city's health commissioner.

By late afternoon Monday, the city had worked to get more than 200 residents to dialysis, she said. In order to transport that many people, many of whom are elderly or handicapped, staffers and the city's transportation vendor had to map all their locations and gain access for first responders to their residences.

"This is not easy," Wen said. "These individuals are our top priority."

Luckily, she said, it appears that most residents took the Health Department's advice and had their prescriptions refilled before the storm hit.

With some residential streets impassable, there will be no trash pickup Tuesday. City landfill and citizen dropoff sites also remain closed, the Department of Public Works said.

More than 2 feet of snow fell over the weekend, shattering previous records.

Rawlings-Blake said the city brought in more than 500 additional pieces of specialized equipment to deal with it.

Randy Sherman, who lives in North Baltimore, said he understands it will take time to clear all the snow. Still, he was frustrated Monday afternoon that his street was untouched by a plow despite being just one block away from Northern Parkway.

He and his wife were prepared to weather the storm with a generator and enough food and supplies. Now if only they knew when their street might be passable, and when he might return to his sales job and his wife to her school administrative post.

"It would be a lot easier knowing crews are working in this direction or that direction," Sherman said. "If the roads were cleared today, and we're able to get to work tomorrow, that would be terrific and a good response.

"If that's not something that is realistically going to happen, then it would be good for the city to tell the community," he said.

Officials gave no estimate Monday of how much of the city's 5,000 miles of roadway — more than half of it smaller, neighborhood streets — had been plowed after the weekend.

The city is focusing efforts on streets around schools in hopes of reopening them quickly.

Keith Scroggins, chief operating officer for Baltimore public schools, said about 70 of the district's 186 schools were cleared of snow on Monday. If all goes well, he said, the schools will be ready to open on Wednesday.

"If the sun comes out as bright as it was [Monday], we will be close to complete, if not complete," he said. "We are going to try to open as soon as possible, but we are keeping in mind the safety of children getting to school. We don't want children walking in the streets."

Schools in Carroll, Harford, Howard and Baltimore counties are also closed Tuesday. Anne Arundel County schools were already slated to be closed Monday and Tuesday for semester break.

Officials said they couldn't predict when students might return.

"It is a day-by-day decision," Baltimore County schools spokesman Mychael Dickerson said. "Our crews help the county clear roads. They also are trying to do the 175 schools and offices and facilities."

With the storm striking on the weekend, many residents were able to get the bulk of their shoveling done by Sunday, leaving Monday an unscheduled free day.

Some took to the malls — in addition to Towson Town Center, White Marsh, Columbia, Mondawmin and Gallery at Harborplace malls were also open.


There were plenty of restaurants offering snow specials, and some movie theaters were open as well.

A few people called wanting to see if "The Revenant," set in an even wintrier landscape than our own, was playing, said James "Buzz" Cuzack, owner of the Senator and Charles theaters.

Both theaters were open, Cuzack said, and the latter was indeed screening "The Revenant."

At the Charles, he said, there were "not crowds of people, just a few people, but we are trying to accommodate them and try to be open."

Some multiplexes were open as well.

Flights started resuming at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and the port of Baltimore reopened for cargo and cruise ships. On the ground, buses returned on some routes but on a limited schedule.

State officials say they've mounted a coordinated response to the storm, with some 3,100 pieces of equipment in operation and about 66,000 tons of salt dispersed on roadways — and 300,000 more tons available.

Officials said it was too early to put a price tag on cleanup costs.

Before the weekend storm, the State Highway Administration had spent about $5 million of its budgeted $56 million for the winter season — most of it in snowy Garrett and Allegany counties, spokesman Dave Buck said. He said he didn't know whether the storm would push the agency over its budget.

State and local governments will begin damage assessments this week to prepare the state's expected request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster aid, said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor.

The storm could cost the state $10 million in lost sales and income tax revenue, said Warren Deschenaux, chief budget analyst for the Maryland General Assembly. That would be a small fraction of the more than $12 billion the state takes in from those taxes.

State and local officials promised an end in sight. The state said interstate highways and primary state roads were about 90 percent passable. Baltimore County estimated 75 percent of its roads had been plowed by Monday morning — and hoped to get to every street at least once by Monday night.

"It's still not totally safe to drive," county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said. "We're asking people to understand that this is really the equivalent of three or four average storms."

At least one Towson woman found it hard to complain.

"I think they're doing a great job," Leigh Tobin said. She said she had no problem driving from her home to Towson Town Center.

She and daughter Anne, 15, a student and tennis player at Friends School of Baltimore, had headed there to shop at Lululemon. But while they found a prime parking space in front of one of the entrances and the department stores open, Lululemon was closed.

Still, they welcomed the day off.

"It's nice," Leigh Tobin said, "to have some downtime."

Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger, Alison Knezevich, Colin Campbell, Mark Puente, Tim Prudente, Liz Bowie and Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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