John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow day 5

Now it begins to get interesting.

After two days of sunshine, the sky has clouded over, and Baltimore braces for the impending storm, which is forecast to bring another foot to foot and a half of snow by the end of the day tomorrow.*

J.P. and I hoofed it to the nearest grocery, three-quarters of a mile, to get milk and other supplies yesterday afternoon. Hamilton Avenue was in indifferent shape, with about a lane and a half partially cleared, and people and vehicles sharing the street.

We came upon a commercial van that had lodged in a snow bank, which a 70-year-old neighborhood resident was helping to get clear. J.P. and I and another pedestrian put our shoulders to it but were unable to move it either backward or forward. We trudged on as the older gentleman went for a shovel.

He was there when we returned, and the van was gone. When the van was clear, he said, he told the woman driving it that he would get it out. He accelerated out of the snow bank, and the van wouldn’t stop, so he threw it into reverse and stopped it. “Lady,” he said, “you don’t have any brakes!”

“I know,” she answered. “That’s why I’m trying to get home.”

As we returned to Plymouth Road, we saw a crowd of neighbors shoveling away at the Plymouth-Roselawn intersection. The neighborhood requests for a city plow have still produced no results, so residents’ only recourse is to come out and try to clear the street manually, like a bunch of babushkas clearing Red Square with twig brooms.

It should be superfluous to say that another foot of snow or more will isolate this neighborhood even further. The block of Roselawn between Plymouth and Pioneer, onto which our garage opens, still has the original two feet of unplowed snow. Anyone on the premises today is likely to be here until sometime next week.

That is why Kathleen has made arrangements with a friend to drive by the nearest open street and pick up Alice to ferry her back to Garrison Forest School. The school is closed today, but Alice is a dorm parent and will be needed to help keep the resident students occupied. Moreover, she will need to be there whenever the school reopens.

So we are charging up the cell phones and the laptops against the hazard of a power failure and making sure that the shovels are at the back door. (Some teens walked through the neighborhood the other day stealing shovels from people’s porches.)

In the middle of all this, a telephone call came for Kathleen yesterday afternoon: Elizabeth Kahl, the senior warden at Trinity Church, had been found dead in her home by neighbors alarmed at not having heard from her. She had apparently expired while sitting up reading.

Dispatches will resume tomorrow, provided there is no blackout.



*New Yorkers and Michiganders, hold your scorn. I was an undergraduate at Michigan State, and in one of my six winters in Syracuse we had more than 160 inches of snow for the season. But Baltimore lacks the equipment to deal with storms of this magnitude, and the way the citizenry drives in snow is terrifying — either 10 mph with the flashers on or 50 mph as if an SUV conferred immortality. If you were here, you would be as apprehensive as I am.