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Snowplows prepared to clear roads in county

November 27, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County police and roads crews were preparing Tuesday for a light snow by making sure plows and snow equipment were ready to hit the streets.

The county was under a winter weather advisory overnight, the National Weather Service said. The Weather Service forecast that from 1 to 3 inches of snow would fall in the area by this morning.

"All of our equipment is ready," said Washington County Highway Department Director Ted Wolford.

Wolford said about 7,000 tons of salt and anti-skid material, a mix of chipped stone, was on hand in four locations in the county.

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Wolford said the county has 32 snowplow trucks and 15 stand-by contractors, who have about two trucks each, who can be called in if the snowfall demands it.

The snowplow drivers, mostly maintenance workers with the county roads department, are on call to plow the snow. Plow drivers get paid overtime.

"I think they like the extra money, but they'd rather be in bed," said Wolford.

He said crews typically work 12 hours from the time a normal snowfall of between two to eight inches ends and the time the plows come off the roads. Heavy winds and drifts are not factored into that time.

Maryland State Police increase patrols on highways during bad weather to check for stranded motorists, Cpl. Benjamin Townes said.

Hagerstown Police Capt. Jack Moulton warned drivers to be careful traveling over the steel construction covers in some parts of the city. He said their smooth surfaces can be slicker than parts of the road.

Moulton said four-wheel drive vehicles help prevent owners from getting stuck, but are no better than other cars at stopping on slick roads. He said drivers should keep their distance from one another.

AAA Mid-Atlantic advises drivers to wear seat belts, reduce speed and use low-beam headlights when traveling through snow and fog. The AAA also advises motorists to carry emergency kits and cell phones in their vehicles, if possible.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Patrol Commander Lt. Randy Wilkinson said half of the department's fleet was equipped with snow tires and was ready for snow.

Wilkinson said placing more officers on the road sometimes can compound traffic problems. Instead, officers are strategically placed throughout the county so they can better react to problems.

"We're there to help," he said.

He said drivers should be careful of black ice if they need to travel in the easternmost and westernmost parts of the county, where higher elevations create higher risk.

"As you start up those mountains it can turn into a different world," he said.

Wilkinson said that driving during bad weather should be limited to emergencies only.

"Anything you get that's slippery is going to be bad for drivers," Wolford said.

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