snow in baltimore
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Snow in Baltimore

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Snow in Baltimore is an experience, a bit meshugah (crazy) and always filled with nuttiness. Just hearing the word “snow” in the forecast is enough to start a stampede to the grocery store. I don’t recall this phenomenon growing up. Weather forecasting was not as precise back then, so maybe we rolled with the punches better than we do now.

Blizzard of 1966

The first major snowstorm I remember was in 1966. We lived in Pickwick, a new housing development between Smith and Greenspring Avenues. Our house was at the end of the street. To the southeast, where Pickwick Apartments and the Towers Condominiums are today, was nothing, just an empty field.

The 1966 blizzard came in fast and furious, with high winds and drifting snow. Mom said the storm reminded her of the storms in her home state of South Dakota. I remember being off from school at least one week! How cool was that?

What did we do to keep busy? I don’t recall, but this wasn’t the kind of snow one could play in. It was too dry and fluffy, and the winds were too intense. We must have listened to records and watched a lot of television; we had only three channels back then. Mom whipped out her sewing machine and was content to spend the days sewing curtains for our playroom. Maybe we helped Dad shovel. I don’t remember; we were warm and cozy in our new house.

Blizzard of 1979

From the transcript of Ebrey v. Holly, “A blizzard dumped 24 inches of snow on Baltimore City and environs in late February 1979. Mobility just about ceased during the storm, and public transportation, as well as police vehicles, was almost totally paralyzed.

Alerted by the media to the immobility of the police, ‘looters’ took to the streets, and they broke and entered a number of commercial establishments. After gaining unlawful entry into the shops and stores, the hoodlums literally carried off just about anything that could be moved.

While many of the police vehicles were practically immobile, vehicles of some television stations were not. Some looters were actually photographed committing the reprehensible acts of theft.”

Our next-door neighbor at that time was Judge Allen Spector. Due to the high volume of arrests, judges needed to get to court to preside over arraignments. Our street was impassable because city snowplows never ever ventured down our side street. Baltimore County on the other hand got plowed. The County/City line is yards away. However, the County trucks would turn around, leaving us City residents stranded.

Meanwhile, Judge Spector needed to get out. Around day three, the city finally sent a plow. The crew dug him out of his driveway and plowed the rest of the block. That was the last time we saw a snowplow for many subsequent storms.

When Kurt Schmoke was elected mayor in 1986, I wrote him a letter pleading for our neighborhood to be plowed. Of course, our street wasn’t a priority. I argued, however, that maybe the Department of Public Works could send a salt truck and/or plow after the main roads were passable. 

I never got a response, but we began to see salt trucks and plows come down the street on a regular basis. Mayor Schmoke was also quoted as saying that a sure way for a mayor not to be reelected was to ignore snow removal problems!

Other memorable storms

We were stuck at home for days following one major storm in the 1990s. Our friends and neighbors, the Jaffees, lived one block over, about 75 yards away. Their street was plowed since they lived in Baltimore County. Our household, with two hungry, teenage boys, was running out of food! Ken and I hiked up the street in 18 to 20 inches of snow to the Jaffee’s and hitched a ride with them to 7 Mile Market.

This grocery run became my Supermarket Sweep moment. I grabbed a grocery cart and made my way up and down the aisles. Anything on the shelves was fair game, including cereal, meat, chicken, bread (if there was any left), snack foods, drinks, etc.

Back at the Jaffee’s, we faced the problem of getting the groceries to our house. What was our brilliant idea? We trekked home, retrieved the kids’ sleds from the front porch, trudged back to the Jaffee’s and piled the sleds with the bags. Huffing and puffing, we got everything home. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

When our oldest son, Nossi, was about 14, he had a Shabbat sleepover at Zalmy’s, a friend who lived about two miles away. Baltimore got hit with a major storm Friday night and into Saturday. He was stuck at Zalmy’s for three days, and I’m sure his mother wasn’t too happy about that.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Being plowed is great. But this causes another problem—getting plowed in. Like most of our neighbors, we don’t have a driveway. Our two cars are parked in the street. The average length of a car is 14 feet. Two cars, with six to eight feet separating them, easily take up over 40 linear feet of space.

When the plow comes, it creates a mound of snow running parallel to the cars. The mound consists of dirty, salt-encrusted ice and snow, often times difficult to remove. That means we have a 40+ long pile of snow and ice to shovel before we can get into our cars. I’m not including the two to three feet of snow to be cleared in front and back of each car.

Thus, any snowfall above six inches becomes a real pain in the neck (really, a pain in the back!). In February 2010, Baltimore received 50 inches of snow over five days. It took days to dig out one car. Ken and my son Eli refused to dig out my car, stating, “Where do you think you’re going to go?!”

The challenge was on! Stubborn me spent days chipping away on the iceberg surrounding my car. It took about two weeks, but I finally dug out that damn car! Mother Nature was of no help since our side of the street is always in the shade.

Baltimore Snow Days

Yes, kids love their snow days. So do all my friends who are or have been teachers. Snow days for the rest of us can be challenging, especially if the kids are at home and Mom and Dad must go to work.

My neighbor’s daughter agreed to babysit one snow day when I had to be at the office. She was about 14; our boys would have been 12 and 9. I couldn’t trust them to be by themselves even though I would be gone over four hours.

It was bitter cold. So, Murphy’s Law kicked in. Cold outside? Let’s have rolling power outages! I remember fielding many phone calls that morning from the kids – they were cold; there was no television; they didn’t know what to do! Our poor babysitter. She survived, however, grew up and now is the mom of five kids. Snow days are her problem now, not mine!

My philosophy about predicted snow days was as follows and was usually correct. If the weatherman forecast a big overnight storm, we’d get an inch or two. Schools would be open or maybe have a late opening. The opposite was true. If the weatherman predicted a dusting of snow, we’d get six inches or more. School would be cancelled.

How was a mom to cope with this unpredictability? My strategy centered around school lunch making. If the kids’ lunches were made the night before, and in the fridge ready to go, school would be called off. If I delayed making the lunches, relying on the weather report to be accurate, we’d have no snow. Then I’d have to wrestle the kids out of bed, give them breakfast and make lunches.

Another snow day coping strategy was baking. Chocolate chip cookies were the first choice. Once I tried to make bagels. The kids ate them, reluctantly. Anyway, I always made sure to have enough sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla and chocolate chips in the house.

My kids were lucky, though. If I was home, they had at least six neighborhood kids to play with – two boys behind us, two boys across the street, and a brother and sister (she was a tomboy) around the corner. I remember lots of wet scarves, gloves, coats and boots by the front door. Anything that could go into the dryer did while the kids played inside.

Baltimore Citizens’ Snow Idiosyncrasies

  1. Snow in the forecast? Time for a milk-bread-toilet paper run to the grocery store. I always add ice cream to my shopping list.
  2. Spent days digging out your car? Reserve your parking space with a chair. Unauthorized vehicles will get pelted with numerous snowballs!
  3. Shovel a sidewalk? Why bother – it’ll melt eventually.
  4. Three flakes of snow falling? It’s time to cancel school!
  5. In Baltimore, SNOW is a four-letter word.
  6. Bothered by the cold and ice? Don’t worry—it’s Baltimore, Hon. Spring will be here soon enough.

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Eileen Creeger.

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