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County blanketed by storm

Road crews battle to keep ahead of major snowstorm

Road crews battle to keep ahead of major snowstorm

February 17, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Road crews in Washington County were working long hours Sunday to try to keep the streets and highways clear, but Mother Nature was even more stubborn.

With about 11 inches of snow on the ground and snow falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches an hour early Sunday afternoon, the snow was covering the highways and interstates just after state crews plowed them, said Gary Shank, assistant resident maintenance engineer with the local Maryland State Highway Administration office.

State Highway crews had 60 plows clearing Washington County roads Sunday afternoon, often with two plows driving side-by-side on the interstates and some highways to clear lanes at the same time, Shank said.

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On Saturday, Shank had drivers working in two shifts, but by Sunday everyone was out plowing, he said. They would return to 16-hour shifts at 4 p.m. Sunday, taking short breaks throughout the day to eat or get fuel.

The Washington County Highway Department had at least 50 to 55 plows on the road early Sunday afternoon, plowing main roads, secondary roads and subdivisions along main roads, Ted Wolford, the department's director, said.

Each plow had a driver and a rider so they could take turns driving, Wolford said.

After having drivers out until 4 p.m. Saturday, Wolford recalled them at 3 a.m. Sunday when the storm picked up force.

Washington County driver Calvin Turner had been on the job so much this weekend he was having trouble keeping track of his hours.

Turner, 61, of Hagerstown, said he started plowing at midnight Friday until 3 p.m. Saturday. He slept a couple of hours before he went back to plowing at 6 a.m. Sunday. He was taking a break shortly before 4 p.m. Sunday, but planned to go back out until he didn't know when.

"It's rough. There's a lot of snow out there," Turner said.

"It's hard to keep up with it," he said.

"I've been doing this for 33 years. I'm used to it," said Turner, who said his truck's heater was keeping him warm and he was drinking soda to stay alert.

The City of Hagerstown had its plows out, Public Works Manager Eric Deike said.

"We're kind of keeping up with it, but it's tough. Every truck we have available is on the street, around 18 to 20," Deike said.

Drivers were working 16-hour shifts and were expected to be relieved Sunday night, Deike said.

Deike said he might use drivers from other city departments such as Water and Water Pollution Control.

Deike said he could call contract drivers, but they were probably all out plowing for the county or state.

"Right now, there's no way to keep on top of it," Deike said.

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