- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

BOSTON, Feb. 19 (UPI) — Air travel paralyzed by the President's Day Blizzard of 2003 returned to near normal schedules Wednesday at airports from Washington to Boston.

Already facing deep budget deficits, many Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states hard hit Friday through Tuesday by record accumulations were struggling with removing the snow and paying for it.

Some were looking to the federal government for help.

Record snowfalls exceeding 2 feet were reported from Baltimore and Boston, with western Maryland measuring 50 inches.

"It's up to my waist when I go to get firewood," Tara Buck, 26, told the Washington Times. The Frederick resident was trying to dig out Tuesday from the 50 inches of snow that trapped her in a hunting cabin in McHenry, in Garrett County, since Sunday. "I feel like I'm on 'Survivor.'"

Officials concerned over potential flooding problems and roof collapses were eying forecasts of warmer temperatures in the 40s and weekend rains.

The National Weather Service predicted a new storm system could bring freezing rain and sleet changing over to rain into the region by Saturday.

The snow-covered states braced for flooding when the piles of snow turn to water as temperatures climb.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which clears snow from about 26,000 bridges, said it was taking steps to avoid a repeat of 1996, when flooding from a post-storm thaw destroyed or damaged a number of bridges.

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams told reporters Tuesday the city should be alert to potential flooding.

"It's going to be particularly acute in low-lying areas," he said.

With rain adding to the weight of more than 2 feet of snow that fell across the region, structures with flat roofs could be in danger of collapse, officials said.

"The fluffy snow would soak up the rain like a sponge" and cause excess weight and stress on structures, said Peter Judge of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. "It's supposed to warm up in the next couple of days and we're looking at another weather event toward the end of the week of rain or wet snow."

He cautioned those with flat roofs to clear them of snow if possible without endangering themselves.

Several such collapses have already been reported, including the roofs of the B&O; Railroad Museum's historic roundhouse in Baltimore, the landmark Montgomery Donuts store and factory in Rockville, Md., and a factory building in Hopedale, Mass.

The Federal Aviation Administration Web site showed the three airports in the Washington area, in Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Boston all operating Wednesday. Delays were reported at the Charlotte, N.C., airport because of low visibility.

The blustery storm caused logistical nightmares for travelers, particularly at airports where vacationers hoping to fly out to catch cruise ships in the Caribbean found themselves stranded and sleeping on benches and cots.

Airlines were hard at work to get things sorted out, said Jose Juves of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan International Airport in Boston, which received a record 27.5 inches of snow.

"The airlines are moving their equipment and personnel to get them in position so they can begin to resume a normal schedule," he said.

Logan spokesman Phil Orlandella agreed, somewhat.

"I hate to use the word normal," he said.

In Baltimore, the National Weather Service officially declared the storm the worst to hit the region since record-keeping began in 1871. NWS said 28.2 inches of snow fell at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

CNN reported the storm has been blamed for 42 deaths since it swept through the Midwest on Friday and moved east - including 18 in Pennsylvania, two in Illinois, one in Nebraska, five in West Virginia, six in Missouri, one in Ohio, one in New Jersey, four in Iowa, one in Massachusetts and another in Connecticut.

Other media reports put the storm's death toll at more than 50.

The death count in Maryland rose to at least 10 on Tuesday. Four children died inside snow-covered cars after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes, and a 64-year-old Baltimore man died of an apparent heart attack after shoveling snow.

The dead children included a 4-year-old girl who was overcome by exhaust inside a car that her aunt was digging out of a snow bank on Monday. Snow was blocking the car's exhaust pipe.

Two young men also apparent victims of carbon monoxide poisoning were found dead Tuesday night inside a car in Northeast Baltimore. Again, the exhaust pipe was covered with snow.

Crews in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia Wednesday continued to try to find places to dump tons of snow scraped up from the streets, and advised residents plows might not reach some back streets until Friday.

The cost of snow removal continued to strain state and city budgets.

West Virginia has already appealed to the federal government for relief, and Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia were also considering applying.

New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky had previously declared a state of emergency to facility possible federal help.

In New York City, buried under 20 inches of snow, Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimated the storm would cost some $20 million — $1 million per inch.

"We've always used a million dollars an inch as a good rule," Bloomberg said.

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich estimated snow removal and related expenses would cost the state between $20 million and $30 million.

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