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Highway crews worked to keep roads open in Washington County area

January 12, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

Road crews in Washington County worked through Tuesday night and into Wednesday to ensure that a winter storm that dropped up to 4 inches of snow across Maryland didn’t hamper motorists on their way to work.

The Maryland State Highway Administration and Washington County Highway Department said they had more than 100 trucks on the roads plowing snow and spreading salt. The number of snow vehicles that were used by the City of Hagerstown was unavailable.

“We had been out since 4 or 5 (p.m.) Tuesday,” Washington County Highway Department Director Ed Plank said. “Everything is going pretty well, but we’re a little slow getting into developments.”

Plank said that although the county had 30 dump trucks and 15 pickup trucks on the road, he was understaffed because budget cuts prevented him from hiring private contractors to help plow.

“Our guys are working really hard,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get it all cleared up by tonight.”

Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said the state had 24 trucks on duty in Washington County and hired 40 additional contractors.

“We had our folks in all night,” Buck said at mid-morning Wednesday. “We’re in good shape now. I’m confident we’ll be in excellent shape by (Wednesday) afternoon.”

Buck said the state pretreated state routes and Interstates 70 and 81 with salt brine — a pre-wetted salt solution that clings to the road — to prevent icing.

“The pretreatment really has worked,” he said. “We’re very pleased where we stand here.”
Buck said he wanted to warn motorists to not get complacent when they’re driving at night because there still may be some ice on the roadways.

“We’re going to keep a handful of trucks (on call) tonight for potential slick spots,” he said.
Emergency officials from across the Tri-State area reported that only a few minor accidents occurred during the storm.

“We really haven’t had anything this morning,” a Washington County Emergency Services dispatcher said Wednesday. “It’s just a few fender benders.”

An emergency services dispatcher in Berkeley County, W.Va., said calls were steady, but none were for vehicle accidents. Pennsylvania State Police reported that everything was quiet.

Washington County’s snow emergency plan, which went into effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday, was lifted at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Before it was all over, 3 inches of snow had fallen in Hagerstown, according to the website of Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer at http://i4weather.net.

In the Smithsburg area, 3.3 inches of snow fell on Tuesday, according to the weather website at www.smithsburgweather.com.

Washington County Public Schools were on a two-hour delay Wednesday morning, and Hagerstown Community College didn’t open until 10 a.m. The University System of Maryland at Hagerstown opened at 10 a.m.

In West Virginia, Berkeley County, Jefferson and Morgan counties public schools canceled classes.
In Pennsylvania, the Chambersburg Area School District and the Waynesboro and Greencastle districts were all on two-hour delays.

The temperature in Hagerstown at 7:18 a.m. was 24 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel like 16.7 degrees, according to Keefer’s website.

In Frederick County, Md., county government offices were operating on a liberal leave policy today due to inclement weather conditions, the county said in a release. Essential personnel were asked to report on time and as scheduled.

Highway Operations in Frederick County reported that the county received an average of 2 to 3 inches of snow last night.  

In anticipation of the snow, Frederick County crews pre-treated roads yesterday afternoon and started plowing at 2 a.m. this morning.

Accumulations across Maryland ranged from less than 1 inch in southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore to more than 4 inches in some areas of Western Maryland to approximately 2 or 3 inches in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas, the SHA said in a release.

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