From Jeff Barker, reporting from Silver Spring
In a Silver Spring online group, residents discussed their years of frustration at seeing their parked cars blocked in by massive piles of just-plowed snow.
Many adopted a new approach for this storm.
Instead of parking on narrow roads in front of their homes, they drove to nearby municipal garages and left their cars there for the duration.
It seemed a sound strategy. Parking in those lot are free on the weekends, and clearing narrow neighborhood roads of vehicles was expected to enable easier access when the plows arrive. Plus, it is likely to save residents lots of digging-- a point they jubilantly noted online.
The snow came at a particularly unfortunate time for Montgomery County, which began its "restaurant week" on Friday -- normally a time of promotions and increased business.
Despite the snow, some restaurants hoped to open later Saturday. Many had timed special offerings for this week.
"Please call us to check in before making your way over," All Set, a Silver Spring restaurant and bar, said on its website. "Be safe, friends!"
The snow in the county was waist-high in some drifts.
From Tim Smith, reporting from Homeland
Residents along one very long block of Springlake Way in Homeland saw a welcome and unusual sight as the blizzard continued Saturday -- a good Samaritan with a snow blower, clearing a path along the sidewalks on both sides of the street. Not once, but twice.
He was Riccardo Bosio, owner of Sotto Spora, the longtime, fine Italian restaurant in Mount Vernon.
“This is my new girlfriend,” Bosio said, pointing to the snow-spewing machine. “How lucky my wife was that she allowed me to buy this thing.”
Bosio, who is in his early 40s, moved into the Homeland neighborhood three years ago. It’s his first year using a snowblower.
“I’m from the north of Italy,” he said, “and I knew this was going to be a big storm. I was worried about older people on the block.”
And off he went, making post-blizzard life a little easier for folks in more than two dozens houses. Given the relentless snow, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to return with his “girlfriend.”
Is it safe to go out?
Travel conditions are treacherous, with 30 mph winds and possibly gusts of up to 50 mph blowing snow and limiting visibility to a quarter of a mile or less. A statewide snow emergency plan is in effect, restricting travel and parking on all state roads designated as snow emergency routes. A state of emergency declared by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is also in effect.
“Now is the time for Marylanders to stay at home and off the roads,” Hogan said Friday. “This is the safe choice. It will also allow emergency services vehicles to maneuver and road crews to begin the long process of clearing highways and streets.”
Why is this storm so intense?
The storm is considered a classic "nor'easter," the name for the large coastal storms responsible for the East Coast's biggest snowfalls. Nor'easters thrive on a clash between cold air to their north and west and relatively warmer, moister air over the Atlantic. They also typically carry heavy amounts of tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Strong winds from the northeast give these storms the nor'easter name.
This storm is already intense as it moves across the Gulf Coast states Thursday, prompting tornado watches in Texas and Louisiana and causing a flurry of lightning strikes. It is forecast to move toward Alabama and Tennessee before transferring its energy to a low-pressure system expected to form over the Carolinas on Friday. It will then sweep up the coast, intensifying thanks to the aforementioned clash of air masses.
Baltimore police are investigating break-ins at four pharmacies Friday night
Baltimore police are investigating break-ins at four pharmacies Friday night, but overall crime has been down during the snow storm, Commissioner Kevin Davis said Saturday.
City police officers are working 12-hour shifts throughout the storm, with some are in unmarked SUVs to get through the heavy snow. Davis said others are paired with Maryland National Guard humvees to respond to calls.
Violent crime has been "slim to none," he said, and overall calls are down. The department received 224 calls for service between midnight and 5 a.m., which is low, Davis said.
Maryland Emergency Management Agency officials said less than 1,500 utility customers were without power statewide by midday, after that number spiked to about 10,000 early Saturday morning.
Gov. Larry Hogan thanked residents for heeding calls to stay at home and asked for continued patience.
“I want to thank Marylanders for the common sense they have shown thus far,” he said in a statement. “I want to urge people to continue to stay off of the roads unless travel is absolutely essential. It is still very dangerous out there and stalled and abandoned vehicles make it that much harder for snow plow operators.
MEMA Executive Director Russ Strickland urged residents to continue to check on vulnerable friends, neighbors and relatives.
“We still have at least 12 hours of storm conditions ahead of us," he said in a statement. "The best way to get through this is if we all work together and communicate.”
Update from Baltimore City officials
“Our crews are working very hard in 12 hour shifts and because we have been able to do so without significant interference by the number of abandoned vehicles that we have had in the past, we’ve been able to be effective out there,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said a Saturday morning news conference. “We’ve been able to make a number of improvements since Snowmageddon.”
For this storm, she said the city has tripled the number of private contractors helping to remove snow on neighborhood streets. She said crews have already identified areas where they can drop snow removed from streets, and the city has help from a contractor in hauling the snow. In 2010, snow was dropped off at Pimlico Race Course, among other locations. The city even had a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment to dump snow in the Inner Harbor.
“While we are prepared more then we’ve ever been for a snowstorm, a storm of this magnitude requires patience,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Don’t panic if you haven’t seen a snow plow on your street. We have a big city and there’s a lot of snow to move.”
The mayor asked residents to look after neighbors, and for residents to call 311 if they see homeless out in the storm. She said outreach worker will work with homeless, and that the city has added shuttles to help get them to shelters.
City transportation Director William Johnson said crews were able to work overnight, despite the high-winds, and heavy snow-fall.
“Our strategy in plowing is to plow continuously so we don’t get a huge build up of so much snow that it becomes difficult to push,” Johnson said.
But he said cleared roads get quickly covered by new snowfall and drifting snow.
“It’s a constant process,” he said. The plows aim to keep no more than four to six inches of snow to accumulate before they can get back around.
Johnson said the city remains in phase 2 in snow operation response, which means only those with snow tires or 4-wheel drive are permitted on the road.
Plowing will continue through the night and throughout Sunday, and possibly into Monday “before we start to see our roads cleared up,” Johnson said. Once roads are cleared, the city has about 8,000 tons of salt ready to put on the streets.
From Pamela Wood, reporting from Glen Burnie
Jennifer and Destin Ford had plenty of activities planned for the snowy weekend with their four kids: cooking chili, playing board games and having fights with toy snowballs.
But first, the sledding hill beckoned.
The family’s row of townhomes sits on the best hill in Glen Burnie’s Cromwell Fountain community. And as with every snowstorm, the hill drew neighborhood kids for sledding and tubing on Saturday.
“I love it,” said 13-year-old Grace Ford, wearing a neon pink winter coat. “I like going fast. I don’t like riding roller coasters, but I like going fast down the hill.”
Grace and the other kids took turns trying out different ways to sled, mostly face-first vs. feet-first. Grace and her sisters Julia, 15, and Abby, 11, took a few short-lived attempts to ride down the hill standing up like snowboarders.
Destin Ford held his 16-month-old son Brody in his lap for the baby’s first trips down the hill.
Amid the laughing and tumbling down the hill, the Fords just had one nagging worry in the back of their minds. “I just hope we don’t lose power,” Jennifer Ford said. “That’s my only concern.”
While Gabriella Page, 10, played with her friends at the Fords’ house on Saturday, her mom Zakiyyah Page took the family’s chihuahua-pug mix Lily for a walk in the snow. The community’s main road had been plowed overnight, so the friendly little dog, wearing a pink camouflage sweater, was able to walk and frolic in just a couple inches of snow.
Page said her family stocked up for the snowstorm with plenty of groceries and gas for the generator. She was glad the storm lived up to the hype.
Page was looking forward to family time with her husband and three daughters, as well as catching up on TV shows on Netflix and her DVR. She also planned to test out a new recipe for clementine orange pound cake and to make chicken and dumplings for dinner,” she said.
“The kids haven’t seen a good snow in awhile, so I was happy it really did happen,” she said.
From Andrea McDaniels, reporting from Asburton
A roof patio is great for sipping wine and and enjoying the outdoors in the summertime. But not so much during a blizzard.
Noell Lugay came out to several inches of snow on her rooftop deck in Ashburton Saturday afternoon.
The manager of operations for Baltimore City Public Schools was busy shoveling all the snow to the yard below.
“All this snow on the roof just makes me nervous,” she said, peering out from the mound of clothes she had on to stay warm.“…I don’t need it to be perfect but I just need to get some of this weight off the roof.”
The first time homebuyer who moved in less than a year ago, said she wasn’t really worried about it collapsing, but said anything can happen.
“I just don’t’ want any problems later,” she said.
From Luke Broadwater, reporting from Baltimore County
About 60 percent of Baltimore County's roads hadn't been plowed as early afternoon Saturday, but that didn't stop photographer Geoffrey S. Baker from getting outside to get some shots in the frigid winds and high snow.
About 2.5 feet of snow had fallen in Oella, the hilly, southwest Baltimore County neighborhood that borders Ellicott City, where Baker, 57, lives. A main road, Oella Avenue, had been plowed twice, but others nearby were untouched by plows.
With snow almost up to his waist, Baker used ski polls to get down to the Patapsco River to shoot. He used a heavy tripod and an umbrella and draped the camera with a towel.
"Everything still got soaked," he said.
Nevertheless, Baker got two photos good enough to publish on his website. And he publicly thanked Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Twitter for the county's plowing of Oella Ave.
"We're usually abandoned big-time," he said.
Falls Road Animal Hospital located at 6314 Falls Road is the official 24-Hour Animal Emergency Hospital for Baltimore City and Baltimore Count residents. Falls Road Animal Hospital is open for all emergencies, including boarding, should there be power outages. Falls Road has been plowed and is accessible from Jones Falls Expressway (JFX) and I-695. Six pet emergencies have come in thus far.
From Liz Bowie, reporting from Riderwood
Russell Brown with a hefty duty snow blower and a big pick up truck was the only one in his Riderwood neighborhood who had a somewhat clean driveway. He had customers who wanted his help, but after heading out and starting to get stuck Friday morning, he decided it would be better to go home and work on his own property.
"I got to help myself before I can help someone else," he said, turning away from his snow blower to talk. "It has definitely been a nasty one, and I have done them all since 1996," he said.
Brown said he would rather be out hunting, but he knew he would never get to the blind. He was hoping roads would be a little better plowed tomorrow so he could get to his customers..
West Joppa Road, with about six inches of snow on it, had been plowed, but there was no traffic at all. The road was eerily quiet with only the sound of traffic lights swinging back and forth.
Few people were out of their houses, and those that were had sleds or snowblowers.