Clearing the snow

December 20, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- It wasn't the snow that was aggravating Maryland State Police Sgt. K.D. Scheer on Sunday.

It was the people driving in it.

"If people would drive with some sense, there wouldn't be problems," said Scheer, who works in the Hagerstown barrack.

Despite most main roads being clear by Sunday evening, Scheer said people were sliding into medians and getting stuck.

State police responded to several such calls and helped motorists get in contact with tow trucks to remove their vehicles, Scheer said. He attributed the accidents to "inattentiveness" and "negligence."

At 9 p.m. Sunday, the Hagerstown barrack of the Maryland State Police announced in a news release that the snow emergency plan in Washington County was lifted for Interstates 68, 81 and 70. The plan remained in effect for all other roadways until further notice.


Meanwhile, public schools in Washington County schools are closed today, the first official day of winter. Also closed today are school districts in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties in West Virginia. Two-hour delays were announced for the following area districts in Franklin County: Chambersburg Area, Waynesboro Area, Tuscarora and Greencastle-Antrim.

Road crews on Sunday continued their efforts of getting snow -- which measured up to two feet in some areas -- off roads.

Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer said on his Web site Sunday that 16.2 inches of snow had fallen between Friday and Saturday in Hagerstown, but Washington County Highway Department Director Edwin Plank said it appears up to 24 inches fell in areas like Dargan.

Keefer said Sunday night it is possible Dargan received that much because snowfall amounts varied from 13 to 24 inches in the storm.

"We were right in the middle," Keefer said of Hagerstown.

Plank said Sunday night that he believes every road his department is responsible for had been plowed, but a lot of roads remained snowpacked.

Many subdivision roads were open and passable, Plank said.

"That's not to say we don't have snow piled up everywhere," Plank said.

Plank said he hopes there will be some sun today to help road crews remove the packed snow. But travel on county roads could be icy and slippery early this morning, since temperatures were predicted to drop to 18 degrees in the wee hours, Plank said.

Plank said he recommended to school officials that schools be closed today and the decision to do so will make it easier for road crews to remove snow.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is responsible for clearing roads like Md. 65, Md. 632, Interstate 81 and Interstate 70, and the county highway office is responsible for clearing roads like Halfway Boulevard and Robinwood Drive, Plank said.

Paul Frushour, resident maintenance engineer for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said Sunday afternoon that all interstates in Washington County were clear and that secondary roads were in "pretty good" shape.

Although interstates are clear, motorists should be wary of snow around ramps, Frushour said.

State Highway Administration and Maryland Transportation Authority crews across the state used front-end loaders and large snowblowers to remove snow from interstate shoulders and ramps, according to a press release from the Highway Administration.

On Sunday, road crews were concentrating on clearing park-and-ride lots, which should be ready for commuters this morning, Frushour said.

In the city of Hagerstown, all main streets were open and passable and most secondary streets were "drivable," Public Works Manager Eric Deike said Sunday afternoon. He said his workers also were removing snow from city parking lots.

One issue city road crews were facing Sunday was people throwing snow onto narrow streets in town, Deike said.

The Hagerstown Fire Department is requesting that residents who live near fire hydrants check to make sure the hydrants are not covered by snow, and shovel them out if necessary, Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said.

The fire department has maps that show where the hydrants are, but finding the exact spot in a large snow bank can be difficult, Hawbaker said.

-- Staff writer Heather Keels contributed to this story.

Do you know a snow angel?

Did a neighbor or someone else help you during or after this weekend's snowstorm? If so, please share the story of your snow angel. Go to and click on "Talk about the snowstorm on our shoutbox." Or tell us about it by calling into Mail Call. Please preface your call by saying you are calling about a snow angel. The phone number is 301-791-6236.

How much snow?

Hagerstown -- 16.2 inches

Hancock -- 16 inches

Smithsburg -- 21 inches

Frederick, Md. -- 22 inches

Shenandoah Junction, W.Va. -- 20 inches

Martinsburg, W.Va. -- 20 inches

Greencastle, Pa. -- 13.5 inches

Chambersburg, Pa. -- 7.5 inches

Waynesboro, Pa. -- 13.5 inches

-- Sources: National Weather Service and local weather observers

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