May 17, 2010

All hail home maintenance (emphasis on "hail")



Mr. Wonk and I got through Snowmageddon without any damage to the parts of our condo that we're responsible for, but Mother Nature intended us for a later drubbing. I came home from work Friday to that discover that hail -- hail, for Pete's sake -- had flattened flowers and left holes in  window screens across the neighborhood.

I'm not kidding. Here, have a look at one of ours:



It never occurred to me that hail could do that sort of damage. But then, it was pretty sizable hail:

Continue reading "All hail home maintenance (emphasis on "hail")" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Home maintenance, Weather

March 19, 2010

Ice dams, flooding and other post-snow home woes


Photograph by Jamie Smith Hopkins


Snowmageddon left us some lovely parting gifts.

Water damage.

The 40-plus inches of snow that overwhelmed the region last month is responsible for leaks in homes via ice dams -- icy ridges that cling to the edge of roofs, preventing melting snow from going anywhere ... except perhaps inside your house. I've heard complaints about that, along with complaints about roof problems from the weight of all that darn snow, of course.

The extra moisture that seeped into the ground could also cause basement flooding and termite infestations, experts warn.

One plague after another, eh?

Maryland is among the states that the National Weather Service categorizes with an "above average" chance of flooding this spring. Soils in the Mid-Atlantic are saturated, it says.

Here's what you should watch for, and what you can do to deal:

Continue reading "Ice dams, flooding and other post-snow home woes" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Home maintenance, Weather

February 17, 2010

Don't do this, for Pete's sake

As this AP story illustrates, some remedies for snow and ice on your property can be worse than the disease:
Authorities say a Montgomery County home caught fire after workers used a propane torch to clear ice from the roof.
Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:36 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Home maintenance, Weather

February 15, 2010

The snow's effect on real estate

Winter's not a hopping time for the housing market under normal circumstances. So you can imagine what more than 40 inches of snow in February does to buying and selling.

Actually, you don't have to imagine. Here's what real estate agent Jamie Mason shared last Thursday when I asked for stories about the snowstorms' economic impact:

"I have a closing scheduled for next week that is still scheduled to take place, but the seller is having to rent his house back from the buyer because his movers can't get their truck down his block to pack up his belongings," wrote Mason, with Long & Foster's Fells Point office.

"Because many secondary roads in the city still haven't been plowed, buyers and their agents can't get in to tour houses. I have an open house for one listing that we have now rescheduled twice, and I have two more upcoming listings that we've postponed putting on the market because of the inability for buyers to get to them. I had noticed buyer activity picking up in January, but now it's all but nonexistant."

Of course, that was last week. It's a whole new week now. With whole new snow predicted. (At least the National Weather Service downgraded its forecast to four inches or less.)

You can read the full economic-impact story here.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 2:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Housing market experiences, Weather

February 14, 2010

Roof troubles, post-snow

Vicky from Upper Fells Point reports that one of the rowhouses on her block had a roof collapse -- a problem cropping up here and there across the region in the wake of all the snow.

"Fortunately the property is uninhabited and no one was hurt," she wrote me. "However, what should the person who lives next door to that property do now? There are concerns of structural damage, as well as water damage when the snow begins to melt."

She knows about, where you can see deeds and other property records. Her plan was to look up the owner so the immediate neighbor can contact him or her "with certified mail return receipt to start a paper trail." And she also suggested her neighbor call his insurance company post-haste.

"Any other suggestions?" she asks.

If you have any, please offer them in a comment.

Here are some of the warning signs that a roof is in trouble, courtesy of the city of Alexandria, Va.:

Continue reading "Roof troubles, post-snow" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Home maintenance, Weather

February 13, 2010

Relive snowstorm #2 in 2 minutes

Will Cocks of Greenmount West made this time-lapse video from nearly 1,800 photos taken between 2 p.m. Tuesday and 8 p.m. the next evening -- or as Will puts it, "Snomageddon 2.0."

Thanks for sharing, Will! And now let's hope the rest of the winter is positively springlike.

February 11, 2010

More snow, for Pete's sake: Your photos



Where does the snow end and the harbor begin? That's the question posed by colleague Justin Fenton, who snapped this moody photo of Snowpocalypse II.

Below, a panoramic pic taken by Aaron Szopinski, showing the alley in Hampden he dug out earlier in the week so his wife could get her car out. "Can't say I'm planning on doing it again," he wrote me as the snow was falling yesterday.




Below, preparing for Round Two: Jackie Regales of North Baltimore shoveled her roof to get the weight off before Mother Nature dumped more on.




And here -- behind the cut -- is a photo Will Cocks took in his Greenmount West neighborhood that's so neat I had to share, even though it's from Saturday and not yesterday:

Continue reading "More snow, for Pete's sake: Your photos" »

February 10, 2010

This cracked me up

The items on Freecycle, a network of sites for offering things you no longer want, are usually of the clothes or household-goods variety. But this week, a funny Freecycler in my neighborhood posted a different sort of free thing:

We have plenty of extra snow. In our yard, on our cars, on our bushes. Good quality snowman snow! Clean, no yellow spots, and it's all yours if you want it, especially off the driveway and walkway! Let me know if you are interested.

Any takers?

Seriously, though, I think she's on to something. We should start marketing our snow to people in states that never get any. Though I'm thinking we might need to charge for the right to cart it off, or they'll think there's something wrong with it.

There: Snow removal problem AND budget crisis solved.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Weather

February 9, 2010

Send your snow photos


Photo by me


What's the damage in your neighborhood? Show us photographically by sending in a photo or three of Snowpocalypse, Round Two.

Because we might as well be miserably snowbound together, right?

Email photos to jamie.smith.hopkins(at) Tell me where and when you took the photo and how you'd like to be credited.

Thanks, all.

Bracing for more snow


Photo by Brad Lhotsky


What do you call back-to-back blizzards? "Snoverkill," say the wags on Twitter. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. And yes, I am aware that it's premature to call the storm being forecast for today and tomorrow a blizzard, but at this point any more snow is too much. Straw, meet camel's back.

How are you preparing? Has anyone taken desperate measures to get snow out of their neighborhood so there's space for Round Two? Have you moved your car somewhere else entirely in hopes of not getting stuck?

Did you ever see a plow?

I'd also like to hear how your life has been affected by all this snow. Did you manage to make it out of your neighborhood? Have you had to delay important things? (Anyone have to put off a real estate settlement?)

Commenting on this post about the digging-out effort, Pete from Highlandtown said a big storm brings out the best and worst in people. He saw the former on his block, where residents worked together to clear the street -- by hand.

Thus, "EVERYBODY on the block can get out. On other blocks people only thought of themselves. They only dug out their own cars and threw the snow into the middle of the street. Now NO ONE on their street can get out. Co-operation works a lot better than selfishly trying to look out only for yourself."

Can the cooperative spirit survive another big storm?

Can the combined might of 5.6 million people wishing the same thing affect weather patterns?


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Neighborhood and neighbors, Weather

February 8, 2010

At least it's pretty



Here's a photo taken by Brad Lhotsky, showing Linwood Avenue through Patterson Park.

I'm offering it up as the silver lining to all this darn snow: It does have its beautiful moments.

Where you're putting the snow


Photo by Jamie Smith Hopkins


A few of your responses to the "so where should the shoveled snow go?" question:

Beth said, "We're about to head out to shovel our alley street near Patterson Park. I think we're going to put the snow in the alley (the part where the trash truck doesn't go). I know it's not an ideal solution, but we already have five foot high drifts in front of all of the houses on our block just from shoveling a walkway (not the whole sidewalk, just an 18 inch path!)"

From Gina: "We live in a townhome community - very tight when it comes to where to put snow. We ended up filling a wheelbarrow and taking it to one of the few grassy spots in the community and then throwing the snow there."

Kate wrote: "We only shoveled a path on one sidewalk on my narrow street. Snow from the street (shoveled, not plowed...even in regular snowfalls the city plows don't make it here) went on the other sidewalk. The drifts are taller than me."

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:45 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Neighborhood and neighbors, Quote of the day, Weather

Finding a place for all that snow


Photo by Jamie Smith Hopkins


Here's a question being pondered by anyone living in a neighborhood without a lot of spare space: Where on earth do you put the snow you're shoveling?

The Baltimore police department's Facebook page says where city residents shouldn't be putting it: "PLEASE DO NOT shovel snow back into the roadways."

Some residents were flummoxed by that. Wrote one Facebook user, "it's not as though we have yards and driveways -- other than the street or the sidewalk, where are people supposed to put the snow??"

Have you found a good answer in your neighborhood?

One city resident responding to the police's Facebook posting made this recommendation: "Put the snow that you're shoveling down the storm drains on every corner."

Wonk reader BigDragon, who measured 28 inches of snow outside his garage door in Glen Burnie, offered a photographic suggestion:



And to think, we're supposed to get MORE snow on Tuesday.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Neighborhood and neighbors, Weather

February 7, 2010

Snowpocalypse: More of your photos

Baltimore real estate agent Jamie Mason, who took the photo below, offers up a caption that made me laugh:

"New feature to market in city home sales: the rooftop luge."



Here's a harbor view she snapped:




Frequent commenter BigDragon sent in photos of the Snowpocalypse in his Glen Burnie neighborhood, including this one that answers the question, "So where exactly can you put the shoveled snow?"

Continue reading "Snowpocalypse: More of your photos" »

Snow etiquette


Photo by Jamie Smith Hopkins


My condo association offers a simple rule for getting through snowstorms with neighborly feelings intact: Never park your car in a space you didn't dig out yourself.

It works pretty well when you've got a parking lot that has space for everyone, and no one from neighboring communities has any reason to horn in. It's trickier in a place that has only street parking, plus businesses attracting car-driving people.

That's why Baltimoreans often resort to setting chairs in shoveled-out spots to save them from interlopers, as Gus Sentementes reported after the December storm. (It's not legal on public streets, he said, but city officials tend to turn a blind eye to the practice.)

Where do you stand on the parking-space issue?

What other rules do you abide by (or wish others would) in the name of snow etiquette?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Neighborhood and neighbors, Weather

February 6, 2010

Snowpocolypse, Day 2: More of your pics

The photos keep coming in -- thanks, guys!

Rob Walshe shared this snapshot of his Waltherson neighborhood, in Northeast Baltimore:




And here's another photo from Rob, to show how high the snow got today:




Jennifer Feinstein took this photo of son Zachary Feinstein, 6, outside their Westminster home:




And here's a street view from Westminster, also taken by Jennifer:


Continue reading "Snowpocolypse, Day 2: More of your pics" »

Snowpocolypse, Day 2: Your pics


Photo by Joe Heisler III


Thanks to all who have sent in photos to show just how much snow you've gotten. Keep 'em coming.

Above, Joe Heisler III gives us a visual report of the situation in Glen Rock, Penn. Wife Kathy said just before noon that they had 27 inches there and the stuff was still coming down.

Here's what greeted Laura in Baltimore when she opened her door this morning:





And here's James Harry's photo of the Baltimore neighborhood of Idlewood (below):


Continue reading "Snowpocolypse, Day 2: Your pics" »

Get that snow off flat roofs, county exec says

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold sent out an advisory this morning warning everyone with flat roofs not to wait around for the snow to melt.

"Flat roofed buildings are extremely susceptible to collapse from the weight of large accumulations of heavy snow," he said in a statement. "In the interest of public safety I urge citizens to take the necessary steps to remove snow from flat roofs in order to avoid the increased danger of collapse."

It probably goes without saying, but be careful if you're going to take those steps.

Do you have a flat-roofed home or business?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:24 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Home maintenance, Weather

Snowed in



Is your neighborhood one of the first to be plowed after snowstorms, or do you feel like you're in the last place on the to-do list?

When we got all that snow dumped on us in December, my way to work was reasonably clear. But some in the same community -- just different homeowners' associations -- complained bitterly several days after the storm that they hadn't seen a plow at all.

So I'm curious to hear about your recent experiences. Good, bad, indifferent? Are you feeling the ripple effects of tight budgets? Does it seem to matter if it's the local government or a homeowner-association contractor doing the work?

Good removal or not, some neighborhoods are just snow neighborhoods. Great hill for sledding, a bit of open space for snowmen and everyone pitching in on the shoveling -- or the snowball fighting -- like one big extended family.

I grew up in that sort of neighborhood. Even as I grouch about the aggravation of uninvited weather as a places-to-go adult, I remember those childhood snow days fondly.

On a related note, my cat Tommy has decided that snow is awesome:


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Neighborhood and neighbors, Weather

The snow in your neck of the woods



Above: The view from Charles Street on Friday evening, contributed by MdoubleA.

Below: Two residential photos from Laura in Baltimore, also snapped Friday.

Continue reading "The snow in your neck of the woods" »

February 5, 2010

Share your snow photos


Photo by Ed Hopkins


What's the landscape looking like near you? Send a photo (or photos) my way this weekend, and I'll post them. Because hey, there is a real estate connection -- snow falls on all homes, huge and modest alike.

Email any photographs to jamie.smith.hopkins(at)

Stay warm, Wonks!

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Weather, Your name in lights (well, newsprint)
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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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