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Area turns eyes to normalcy

February 19, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Temperatures crept above freezing Tuesday as the Tri-State area began the slow process of getting back to normal after the heaviest snowfall in seven years.

Although another inch of snow fell early Tuesday, adding to the 2 feet already on the ground in Hagerstown, the thermometer reached 36 degrees by mid-afternoon, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

The snow emergency plan for Washington County was lifted at 1:30 p.m., according to Maryland State Police.

Schools were to be closed today in Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland and in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia.

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The school district offices in Washington and Jefferson counties will be open.

The Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Greencastle-Antrim school districts in Franklin County, Pa., were to open on a two-hour delay today.

In Hancock, where snow accumulations reached nearly 30 inches, Town Manager Larry Logan said most roads had one passable lane.

Maintenance workers had "no place to push the snow," Logan said, adding that the town had hired a front loader and dump truck to haul out the snow.

An expected warming trend is to begin today, making the question of what to do with the snow even more important. With temperatures expected to climb into the 40s today and for the rest of the week, some communities were turning their attention from snow removal alone to the prevention of flooding.

"We don't want a quick melt," Logan said.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said the town was blocking off various streets downtown through Thursday for snow removal.

"Any vehicles parked in those areas will be towed at the owners' expense," she said, and warned that residents should not park near storm drains.

"We're worried about flooding and we'll be trucking snow out," Myers said.

North Main Street and East Water and West Water streets especially would be affected, she added.

Washington County Highways Director Ted Wolford said county workers would be locating storm drains beginning today to remove snow and debris.

Wolford asked that residents who know locations of drains call the Highways Department at 240-313-2720. He asked that callers provide an address where workers could locate the drains.

County road crews were out clearing snow again Tuesday. Wolford said his crews were going to work until about 6 p.m. All county roads were open, he said, and about 80 percent were clear.

Hagerstown Community College opened at noon Tuesday. Valley Mall and Prime Outlets reopened as well.

Marketing Director Liza Gonzales said all Prime Outlets stores were open Tuesday afternoon, and that several shoppers had ventured out.

"The food court's been fairly busy," she said. "I think it's cabin fever - people are looking for a place to go that's open. There've been a lot of shoppers out with their kids."

The outlets opened at noon Tuesday, but Gonzales said they hoped to make their regular 10 a.m. opening today.

County offices, closed Monday by the snow, reopened Tuesday. Most other government offices were scheduled to be closed Monday because of the Presidents Day holiday, and were open Tuesday.

Hagerstown Regional Airport was open Tuesday, with most flights on schedule. The only exceptions were flights coming to and from Baltimore because BWI was closed, according to Airport Manager Carolyn Motz. She said the airport expected its regular schedule to resume today.

The County Commuter also planned to resume its schedule at 6 a.m. today, according to Public Works Director Gary W. Rohrer.

MARC Train Service in Frederick, Md., was canceled for today. The Maryland Transit Administration said customers could take commuter bus No. 991 from Monocacy to the Shady Grove Metro station. MARC tickets will be honored on that bus route.

There will be no train service from West Virginia. MARC arranged for Gunther Bus Service to travel from the Martinsburg, W.Va., station to Shady Grove. The bus will leave Martinsburg at 6:35 a.m. and leave Shady Grove at 5:35 p.m. for the return trip.

Greyhound bus service in Hagerstown was restored Tuesday after being shut down the previous day.

Police and emergency officials in Franklin and Fulton counties said most people were staying inside Tuesday and avoiding the roads.

"It's pretty quiet. Everyone is being pretty careful and staying off the roads," said Cpl. John Elliott at the Pennsylvania State Police in McConnellsburg. "The back roads are a little tricky, but the main roads are pretty good."

State Police in McConnellsburg and Chambersburg did not report any major accidents Tuesday.

All state roads in Franklin County, Pa., were reported open with at least two lanes passable, said Dave Rock, Franklin County maintenance manger for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

"We feel comfortable that the roads are safe to drive, and we will work at them a little more" today, Rock said.

He praised the road crews who have worked long hours clearing 1,400 miles since the snow began falling early Sunday. "They did an excellent job. And our mechanics did an excellent job getting the trucks on the road," he said.

In Berkeley County, W.Va., cleanup crews were working 12-hour shifts, with the focus moving from primary to secondary roads, Division of Highways Foreman Ronnie Allen said.

Once the county's main roads - U.S. 11, W.Va. 45, W.Va. 51, W.Va. 9 and W.Va. 901 - were cleared, secondary roads were divided by sections to be plowed, Allen said. He estimated 12 workers were on each shift.

It will be a few days before all roads are cleared, Allen said. Along with a bit of slush, on some main roads, clean snow thrown onto the road from driveway shovelers marred the asphalt.

Interstate 81, meanwhile, was clean and dry by Tuesday afternoon.

Staff writers Stacey Danzuso, Andrew Schotz and Candice Bosely contributed to this story.

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