Snowstorm's a game-changer for party-goers, pizza delivery

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It sure looked like a well-planned Super Bowl party, with chili, fresh guacamole and macaroni on the counter, moms and kids milling everywhere and a few dads glued to the game in the living room.

But actually, the idea came to Annette Baldwin on Saturday afternoon as she and her Ellicott City neighbors strained their backs shoveling 2 feet of snow from their driveways. A lot of folks wouldn't be able to make their planned parties, Baldwin figured, so why not have a potluck right there, in the heart of their neighborhood?

The Baldwins love to offer comfort during a storm. When Tropical Storm Isabel wiped out power in 2004, they revved up their generator and cooked for neighbors on the back deck.

"That's just how we deal with these things," said Rob Baldwin. "We get everybody together."

The remnants of Friday and Saturday's giant snowstorm altered Super Bowl plans across Maryland, trapping partygoers in their neighborhoods and stymieing pizza delivery. Gov. Martin O'Malley urged Marylanders not to drive to Super Bowl parties, warning that the overly ambitious could get stuck on unplowed or icy streets.

Some put a happy twist on their limitations, gathering with neighbors for impromptu celebrations.

"Every time it snows like this, we get the neighbors together," said Sherri Petti, who attended the Baldwins' party instead of trekking to her sister-in-law's unplowed street. "It's so fun."

The snow was more of a disaster for John Low, who manages eight Papa John's pizzerias around the Baltimore area.

Super Bowl Sunday and the day before Thanksgiving are the biggest of the year for pizza delivery. All drivers are expected to work, and an average shop can send out 500 or more pies on the night of the big game (Pizza orders increase by more than 35 percent on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the National Association of Pizzeria Operators.)

But when Low called his store managers at 8 a.m. Sunday, the news wasn't good. The chain's drivers could not dig their cars out of side streets, and few, if any, would be able to work.

That would be bad news any day. On Super Bowl Sunday, it's terrible news.

"It's going to be a huge hit to our business," said Low, tending to his store in Elkridge, where the storm dropped more than 30 inches of snow. "But when you're dealing with 3 feet of snow, you're not going to be able to operate normally, no matter what business you're in."

A suburban pizza shop earns most of its money by carrying pies down the very side streets that were clogged by the storm. "We don't deliver on I-95," Low said sadly.

The store was open for pick-up orders, and Low held out hope that a post-Super-Bowl special ($9 for a large pizza with as many toppings as touchdowns scored by the winning team) would help recoup some of the lost revenue.

"But it's just not going to be a typical Super Bowl," he said.

Business was a little better around the corner at Lyndwood Square Wine and Spirits. Many customers had stocked up Thursday and Friday, assuming nothing would be open on the weekend. "But it's still busy today," said owner Bert Pinheiro, who expected no financial hit from the storm.

"A lot of people have told me they canceled their parties," he said. "They're getting together with their neighbors instead. That's kind of taken the place of people who may be going long distances. No matter what, people will find a way to get together for the Super Bowl."

Baltimoreans would never pass up a chance to root against the Colts in unison, he added with a grin.

The snow buried some party agendas. Jayson Hill had planned to prepare his "famous buffalo chicken dip" for friends at his Pasadena home. But 30 inches of snow and downed tree limbs along Route 100 cut his guest list to zero.

"Looks like I'll be rooting for the Caps and Saints in my igloo," he said.

For at least one Colts fan, 11-year-old Sean Madden of Ellicott City, the snow delivered a bit of salvation.

Madden's family was set to fly out Saturday morning for a vacation in Costa Rica. "I was sad that I wasn't going to be able to watch the game," he said, clutching a Colts balloon outside Safeway.

But with the airport shut down, the Maddens changed their flight to today. So instead of sunbathing in the tropics, they planned to spend Sunday sharing cold beers with neighbors and rooting for Peyton Manning.

"Every snow cloud," said Sean's father, Stuart, "has a silver lining."

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