Baltimore’s Reaction To Snow
Winter-hardy newcomers dish on Baltimore’s winter phobia
By Elizabeth Imhoff
With winter at the doorstep, it’s just a matter of time until a forecast of flakes sends crowds in search of life’s essentials: milk, toilet paper and bread. Perhaps this year’s potential panic is warranted. After all, about a year ago, Baltimore reeled from the effects of Snowmageddon, when back-to-back blizzards buried the region.
While weary locals plowed and shoveled their way through 2010, our northern friends only watched with a mixture of incredulity and giggles.
Consider this one comment written last February by a writer named Grungex on the Syracuse.com website: “Went down to the Baltimore area over the weekend, just got back Monday. The place was a total war zone. No plows to move the stuff, just backhoes and dump trucks. What a mess that was, we were laughing because they were clueless as to what to do, especially driving!!! What closes down everything down there is just another day in CNY. …”
As of mid-December, Grungex’s central New York region of Clay — just outside of Syracuse — had already seen six feet of snowfall. Lisa Schwartz can relate. A Long Island native, she attended the State University of New York at Oswego, located on Lake Ontario.
“We could see the lake effect snow roll in from Canada. When it hit, we had a complete white-out,” she recalls.
Getting home from campus meant following a snowplow along its route.
“We would have six inches fall within an hour, but that was normal for us,” she adds.
In Baltimore for six years, Schwartz is still somewhat surprised when flakes are forecast. “It’s such a big deal when it snows here. It’s so funny when there is a mad dash to the store for groceries, and that things are out of stock.”
In Toronto, where several feet of snow remain on the ground from December through March, residents take it in stride, says Toronto native Rachel Saslove. “Here, people panic and work is cancelled. I couldn’t believe how much people worried in advance of a snow, even when it was still sunny outside.”
Saslove, who came to Baltimore in 2008 to attend Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University, does acknowledge 2010’s record snowfall. “I admit that last year had an impressive amount of snow. But in Toronto we would be out and about. The city knows how to deal with copious amounts of snow. Here, the entire city was shut down for days,” she says.
“My mother (in Toronto) thought the whole thing was hilarious,” she continues. “She said that of course Baltimore doesn’t get the concept of snow; they just don’t know what to do.”
In Baltimore, often the first item on any to-do list is closing schools — often in advance of a storm as well as days afterward. Northern natives can only shake their heads. “During my 13 years in school (Canada students attend an additional year), we had maybe 10 snow days, usually for something like an ice storm when pipes were frozen and it’s dangerous,” says Saslove.
Though Schwartz had very few snow days in New York, her children, Jake, 7, and Emma, 4, are now pros. “When the snow falls, they know all about snow days,” she says. “The big problem though is when school ends three hours early. That puts working parents in a bind.”
Alysia and Jordan Rosner moved to Reisterstown from Chicago in late 2009. Chicago natives who spent some time in Connecticut, the couple found last year nothing out of the ordinary. During the Rosner family’s first Baltimore winter, Alysia Rosner recalls, “It was like being home, except that people just didn’t know where to begin to clean it up.”
“I saw people who ventured out, but were pulled over on the side of the road, not knowing what to do.
After a 30-inch snowstorm in Chicago, we would hunker down for a few hours, maybe a day. Schools were closed maybe a day, but then everything would open,” she says. “It never occurred to me that streets would not be cleared and schools would close for so many days.”
On the other hand, after witnessing drivers inching along at dangerously slow speeds, she acknowledges the value of keeping off the snowy roads, especially when it comes to her sons, Eli and Louie, 10, riding on school busses over unplowed areas and with nervous drivers nearby.
Despite the local inconvenience, grocery sprints and nervousness about the snow, these experienced northerners offer advice. Enjoy it, they say. “Some of my favorite memories from childhood are the times when I walked across a fresh pile of snow and left footprints,” says Saslove.
“It is so beautiful,” she adds.
The driving experts at AAA Mid-Atlantic publish winter driving tips each year and on their website. At the top of the list? Preparation.
• Clear snow or ice from all windows, doors, mirrors and lights, as well as the hood, roof and trunk.
• Check tire treads and only drive with tires rated for snow or all-weather.
• Clear tire tracks by removing as much snow as possible from the area around the tires. For traction, spread road salt, sand or cat litter on the ground.
• Slow down and increase following distances.
• Know your brakes. Keep the pedal depressed if you have anti-lock brakes. (The brakes do the pumping.) No anti-lock brakes? Pump brakes gently.
• Control a skid by taking your foot off the accelerator or brake. Steer into the direction of the skid.
• Keep an emergency kit with ice scrapers and brushes, a small snow shovel, cat litter or sand, a flashlight with fresh batteries, flares, jumper cables, first aid kit, blanket, extra clothing, non-perishable food and window washer fluid.