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Region begins to dig out after snowstorm

Man dies after he is seen using snowblower in southern part of county

January 27, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION and DAN DEARTH | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Eliza Poffenberger, 11, shovels the sidewalk by her Sharpsburg home Thursday morning.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

The region began rebounding Thursday from a paralyzing winter storm that stopped many motorists in their tracks, cut power to thousands and may have led to the death of a man in southern Washington County.

The death involved a man who was seen using a snowblower Thursday morning in the 20800 block of Netz Road, Washington County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Robert "Jack" Willis said.

Willis said a neighbor saw the man operating the snowblower. When the neighbor looked out about 20 to 30 minutes later, he saw the snowblower, but not the man, Willis said.

"They walked out and found him face down in the snow," said Willis, whose office was informed of the incident at about 9:50 a.m.

The sheriff's office responded to the scene off Md. 67 south of Boonsboro to make sure there was nothing suspicious about the death, Willis said.

It appeared the man died of natural causes, possibly a heart attack, he said. However, he was unsure whether the man was pronounced dead at the scene or later.

Willis declined to release the name of the victim because he was not sure whether his family had been notified.

 James Ulrich of Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services warned residents Wednesday about the health dangers of removing the heavy wet snow, which accumulated to 8 inches in Hagerstown.

 Besides posing an arduous cleanup challenge, the rapidly-falling wet snow also conspired with rush-hour traffic, poor visibility and other factors to snarl traffic Wednesday night, especially on Interstate 70 on South Mountain.

  I-70 was essentially shut down on South Mountain because motorists couldn't make it up the mountain, officials said.

  As of 8:25 a.m., I-70 in Frederick and Washington counties had been reopened to traffic, said Kim Frum, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Frum said the state had approximately 2,100 vehicles clearing snow — 100 of them in Washington County.

Frum advised people to drive with caution. Vehicles were packing the snow down in some areas, causing the roadways to remain icy in some areas.

"You're going to find varied conditions," she said.

 Washington County Highway Department Director Ed Plank said fallen tree limbs and downed wires caused delays in the snow-removal process. In addition, drivers occasionally were called away from their assigned plow routes to clear the way for emergency vehicles.

 Plank said he believed the county could have done better removing snow.

 "If there's an apology that's needed to the citizens of Washington County, I give it to them," he said. "Their safety is our top priority."

He said road crews spread salt on compacted snow in an effort to melt it. Sixteen private contractors were called in to help supplement 38 county vehicles.

The Maryland State Police lifted the Snow Emergency Plan in Washington County at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Meanwhile, thousands of people were left without power across the Tri-State region after the storm, but progress had been made later Thursday in restoring power.

As of Thursday night, no one was without power in Washington County or Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia, according to an Allegheny Power website.

In Frederick County, 1,577 customers were still without power as of 8:10 p.m. Thursday, and three were without power in Morgan County, W.Va., the website said.

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