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Area braces for winter weather

December 04, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

The calendar says winter won't officially arrive until Dec. 22, but the National Weather Service said Wednesday it could arrive tonight.

The forecast included a triple threat of rain, snow and freezing rain that could last through Friday and into Saturday.

Road crews were watching the forecast Wednesday to get a better fix on what this weekend's weather would be like.

"Right now it looks like a mix," Washington County Highways Director Ted Wolford said Wednesday. He said he would decide this morning whether to call in extra shifts to clear roads. At that point, he said, he should have a better idea of exactly what the weather would be.

But whatever it brings, he said, "we're ready."

Hagerstown Streets Supervisor Dale Poffenberger said his crews would be ready, too. "We're still working on a few of the vehicles," he said, "but we will be ready."

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Hardware and home supply stores were getting ready, too - for a storm of customers in search of snow removal gear.

"When that first snowflake falls, they're gonna be in here like flies," said Zeama Atherton, who works in the garden department at Home Depot at the Centre at Hagerstown.

Customers had already been shopping for winter supplies, she said. "It looks like we're fully stocked, but when they start coming in, it goes down quick."

Over on Wesel Boulevard, Lowe's was doing a brisk business even before this weekend's forecast was announced.

"Based on last year's weather, we're having a hard time keeping snowblowers in stock," said Maria Taylor, department manager for inside seasonal sales. She said that as of Wednesday, she hadn't noticed an increase in volume because of the forecast.

But she had a warning for would-be shoppers. "We have everything in stock right now, but I wouldn't wait until the last minute," she said.

Customers at Cavetown Hardware began to prepare for winter already, according to sales associate Charles Bradburn. "We've had a few," he said. "They're buying ice melt and shovels and ice scrapers. If the weather turns bad, we'll have quite a few more."

It's not as if we weren't warned; the Hagers-Town and Country Almanac's prediction for today, Friday and Saturday is "light rain or snow, colder." The almanac gives the area a break on Sunday and Monday, but predicts freezing rain or snow again beginning Tuesday.

No predictions quite prepared the area for last year's winter storms, which broke a 104-year-old record for snowfall in February. They also broke snow removal budgets for state and local governments throughout the region.

In Washington County, emergency funds were used to help pay for cleaning up after the storms, Wolford said.

"Last year was an unusual year; hopefully we won't have a reoccurrence of that," he said.

As for this weekend, Wolford said, "if the temperature is low and it starts to freeze, the best advice I can give is to stay home."

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