Many are frustrated by pace of plowing
Baltimore residents and those who travel into the city have been fuming about snowed-in side streets and ice-filled main routes. But city officials warned that conditions could get worse before they get better.

City road crews were pulling out of neighborhoods Tuesday night to replow primary roads clogged by the second major winter storm in a week. Many key corridors were in rough shape, narrowed by plowed snow and covered with rutted, icy layers.

Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, who was getting a baptism by snow in her first week in office, said she understands the frustration.

"The city's not clear until your street is clear. I got that," the mayor said during a Tuesday afternoon news briefing at the city's East Baltimore snow truck maintenance facility.

But the mayor defended the city's efforts to clear the streets in the wake of what she accurately called "the biggest two-day blizzard since 1922." And she paid tribute to the efforts of city workers and contractors who have worked long hours since the weekend snowstorm dumped 24 to 30 inches on Baltimore.

"Some people who work right here in this building haven't been home in days," Rawlings-Blake said. "They really have gone above and beyond."

Many residents and commuters gave less charitable reviews to the city's efforts. The impending new snowfall did nothing to ease their frustrations.

Kerry Craven, 45, experienced heavy snow in 1996 and 2003 while living at Roland Avenue and 35th Street in Hampden. City officials always focused on primary roads first, she said, but she would always see a plow on 35th Street within 24 hours of announcements that plowing of secondary roads had begun.

This time, though, "the city response has been, as far as I'm concerned, abysmal in comparison," she said.

In many neighborhoods — and along main thoroughfares - vehicles struggled to navigate streets with a thick layer of compacted snow and ice.

The city's transportation director, Alfred H. Foxx Jr., warned that it could be some time before many residents see bare pavement on their streets.

"We've got too much snow up there to get down to pavement," he said. "You will not see blacktop."

In many cases, that layer cannot be scraped away by a typical snowplow but will require special equipment - or the patience to wait for the snow and ice to melt.

"This is not a shoveling event," Rawlings-Blake said. "This is a hauling event."

The mayor issued a call for contractors who have snow-removal equipment to call a city hot line at 410-396-5752.

"We need all hands on deck," she said.

Meanwhile, commuters into Baltimore encountered slow going as principal roads - among them Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, East Monument Street and Harford Road - in many cases operated with fewer lanes than usual. For some motorists, the Tuesday evening commute through downtown as flakes began to fall would take an hour and a half.

Even with no snow falling, Tuesday's morning commute - the first in four days for many downtown workers - was difficult.

Mary Gipe, who works for a financial firm, left her home in Sykesville about 7:45 a.m. for what is usually a 60- to 70-minute commute. Things were moving nicely until she approached the exit to Interstate 395, where "traffic was like a dead stop. ... The streets downtown were just horrible."