The faster the snowflakes fell, the slower Baltimore moved over the past week. Streets and cars were buried in over 4 feet of snow, holding residents hostage as the city’s worst blizzard since 1922 released its fury.
Phase one of the storm – Feb. 5-6 – covered the city in over 30 inches of snow. As of Wednesday morning, after the second blast began, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s twitter page reported the implementation of the Baltimore City Snow Plan, which banned all but emergency vehicles from the roads. She said 134 city trucks had been out plowing and salting major roads and byways, of which 72 percent had been plowed once and 36 percent had been plowed two or more times.
“City government is full speed ahead, preparing for the next storm,” one of the tweets stated.
But residents whose streets haven’t been cleared at all are left with two options—dig themselves out, or wait for the city’s assistance that some doubt will come. In a Park Heights neighborhood, like many others, citizens spent hours shoveling sidewalks and clearing snow off of and from around their cars. However, the roads were piled too high with snow for most cars to drive even the smallest distance.
“Nothing’s moving around here,” said Clinton Darden as he stared hopelessly out at the 30-plus inches of snow from his front porch on Narcissus Avenue. He bypassed a trip to the grocery store for fear of taking his 3-year-old nephew out in the untamed weather. Besides, any grocery stores that were open likely would be out of stock on most items, anyway, he accurately assumed. A nearby Safeway supermarket was mobbed by residents filling their carts with dairy products, bread, beverages and snack items, leaving many shelves bare.
Some gas stations were sold out of all grades of gas, forcing travelers to venture further into the unsafe conditions to fill their tanks. Many cars were observed slipping on ice or getting stuck in snow in the middle of major roadways.
“It’s bad out here,” Darden said. “It been this bad in years. You can’t get around.”
While some of his neighbors joined together to dig out their street, many others were elderly and unable to pitch in. The street that was halfway clear by Tuesday afternoon is now buried again, and the cars that had been dug out will remain still, unable to travel down the narrow strip without getting stuck.
National Weather Service released a statement early Wednesday emphasizing the severity of the storm, referring to it as “extremely dangerous winter weather conditions” affecting the Baltimore-Washington region and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
“Life threatening blizzard conditions have developed rapidly across the Baltimore-Washington region this morning,” the report warned.
Rawlings-Blake urged residents to stay inside as the blizzard warning continued and city employees worked through the snow emergency.
“Since the storm began, we have put over 40 thousand miles on our trucks in the city,” she said in a news report on Monday. “We’re going to do as much as we can to clear the roads before the storm starts up again.”
Her spokesman asked residents to be patient as the city responded to the “tedious” task, but also encouraged citizens to participate in the clean-up effort.
“We ask those residents in good health to assist the recovery efforts by helping to shovel snow from walks, driveways and parking spaces.” Ryan O’Doherty said. “Please help those that may not be able to help themselves.”
On Narcissus Avenue, several residents came together to lend a shovel and support of each other after the initial snow blast ended Sunday night. Those who weren’t well enough to help physically offered small conversation instead. One elderly woman said she lived in the area for over 30 years and has never seen a snow plow come down her street. She would be assisting her neighbors as they shoveled, she said, but her arthritis is too bad.
Darden said trash and recycling has not come around in over a week, and he also has not received his mail.
“I didn’t know it was going to get this bad out here,” he said. “It caught us off guard. We got so much snow they don’t have a place to put it. What can we do? Nothing.”