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December 06, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

TRI-STATE AREA - Get a grip on your snow shovel: A year ago, Hagerstown was basking in a record 77-degree day on Dec. 5.

On Thursday, also Dec. 5, this season's first significant snowstorm dumped up to 10 inches of powder-dry snow around Washington County overnight and through late afternoon.

"The storm was expected but I was surprised we got so much," said Ted Wolford, Washington County Highways superintendent, after pulling an all-nighter with his road crews.


Schools in Washington County were closed as were many state and county government offices. Many businesses either didn't open or closed early.

Washington County Public Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said late Thursday that schools would be closed again today.

The anticipated storm barreled through the region on the heels of record-breaking cold temperatures, in sharp contrast to last year's unseasonably warm weather.

"This snow didn't stick as much and it was melting quicker," said Gary Shank, assistant resident engineer of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Both he and Wolford said there were few problems with equipment.

"Most of our vehicles worked well and we have a good supply of abrasives," Shank said.

In Hagerstown, many residents spent Thursday afternoon shoveling snow from their cars and sidewalks. Along Virginia Avenue and several other main thoroughfares, there was evidence that some had been shoveling that snow into the city streets.

If caught in the act, residents can be cited by Hagerstown City Police for a violation of city code, said John Lestitian, chief of code compliance in Hagerstown.

Lestitian said his office enforces the rule that property owners in the downtown area have four hours from the time snow stops falling to have their sidewalks cleared. All others in the city limits have 10 hours.

Some motorists were having problems navigating through melting slush on the roads.

Even a Maryland State Police cruiser fell victim to such an accident at the New Market Scale facility in Frederick County, Md., Thursday afternoon, police said.

The cruiser encountered heavy slush and slid into a guardrail. Damage was minor and the trooper wasn't hurt, police said.

While there were numerous snow-related accidents Thursday, most were minor, authorities in Washington County said.

"There were a lot of them but no serious injuries," said Tom Bikle, a dispatcher at Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications.

An overturned vehicle at 10:50 a.m. on Interstate 81 near Williamsport resulted in minor injuries.

On I-70 just before noon, another vehicle overturned and there was a report of an entrapment. But Bikle said the occupant was merely unable to open the vehicle's door.

Back on I-81 at 1:27 p.m., another minor accident resulted in no transports for hospital treatment.

There were some tense moments at 5:17 p.m. when reports came in that a car had gone into the Potomac River at the I-81 bridge in Williamsport. Rescuers in a boat and vehicles joined ambulance personnel and firefighters in a search for a vehicle in the water.

But after a 30-minute search, nothing was found in the water nor was any evidence of bridge damage discovered, rescuers said.

With a clear forecast for the weekend, state police lifted Frederick County's snow emergency plan at 6 p.m. Washington County's snow emergency plan was lifted an hour later.

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