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Schools closed as road cleanup continues

December 21, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County Public Schools will be closed again Tuesday as road crews tackle their fourth day of cleaning up from Saturday's record snowfall, local officials said.

They join other area school systems, including public schools in Frederick County, Md., and in Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties in West Virginia, which all announced Tuesday closures.

With a low of about 18 degrees predicted for Monday night, the National Weather Service warned that refreezing of snow and slush could lead to areas of black ice. A high of 35 degrees was predicted for Hagerstown on Tuesday.

Washington County Public Schools spokesman Richard Wright said the decision to close schools Tuesday was made after consulting with county roads officials and sending out the school system's own transportation staff to inspect bus routes.

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"We still have hazardous bus routes and conditions that are just very challenging for students who will be walking to school and at the bus stops," Wright said.

The school system considers closures one day at a time and had not made a decision about Wednesday, Wright said.

Washington County Highway Department Director Edwin Plank said Monday afternoon that the county still had some snow-packed roads.

"The majority of main roads are pretty much bare, but some will probably slush up again," Plank said.

The amount of traffic on main roads helps keep them clear because the heat from the vehicles helps break up ice, he said.

The county still had a lot of back roads where the snow was piled up to the edge, making the roads narrow, Plank said.

Plank said clearing snow had been a slow process, and the temperatures did not rise enough Monday to help very much in shaded areas.

"With this many inches of snow, it will cause you problems for days, because of freezing and thawing," he said.

Hagerstown Public Works Director Eric Deike said city crews spent the day Monday opening alleys downtown, clearing sidewalks, putting down salt and scraping streets with a backhoe.

Deike said city crews planned to spend Monday night removing snow from downtown. That process, which he planned to start at 11 p.m., involves blocking streets and using backhoes and loaders to scoop snow into dump trucks, then dumping the snow in a field off of Memorial Boulevard. He said crews were going to focus on Washington Street Monday night, starting at Jonathan Street and working toward Public Square.

Deike said area residents should keep in mind that as temperatures drop, roads and sidewalks can still be icy.

"For the most part, streets are in good shape, but there are always the slick spots and they just need to be a little bit careful," Deike said.

The City of Hagerstown and Washington County governments had liberal leave policies in effect Monday, which allowed nonessential employees to use vacation time or personal leave without making prior arrangements with department heads.

Spokespeople for the city and county said most employees seemed to have gotten to work and the governments were operating as usual Monday.

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