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Many unimpressed with snow removal efforts after storm

February 22, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Melvin Price, of Hagerstown, helps a stuck motorist get up a hill on East Franklin Street near Hagerstown's City Hall on Tuesday.
By Dan Dearth/Staff Writer

The winter storm that blanketed Hagerstown's roadways with more than 4 inches of snow Monday night and early Tuesday left some motorists wondering why more wasn't done to clear the streets before rush hour.

On East Franklin Street in front of City Hall, several vehicles were spinning their wheels Tuesday morning as drivers tried to make it up a small hill that was covered with slush and packed snow.

Joshua Babcock said he and his wife, Jessica, were downtown to pay bills.

"The roads down here ... they're hardly plowed," Joshua Babcock said. "Good thing we have four-wheel drive. I think (the road crews) could have done better. I've seen them do better. I don't know if they're cutting costs or what."

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Ashley Haywood said from her Skyline Coffee shop on Public Square that she believed the snow crews were doing a good job.

She said the trucks left some snow on the streets because if they plowed to the ground, a layer of ice would have formed and made driving more dangerous. The city also was trying to remove snow with a smaller staff, and salt that was expected earlier this month did not all arrive, Haywood said.

"We have to pick and choose our battles," she said. "We were supposed to receive 120 tons of salt, but we didn't get it. That might be some of the problem that we didn't get our allocation of salt."

Hagerstown Public Works Director Erik Deike wrote in an e-mail on Tuesday morning that his workers were making an effort to address the storm that hit the area Monday evening.

"Sleet, freezing rain and snow fell throughout the night until approximately 4 a.m.," Deike wrote. "The temperatures at the beginning of the storm were around 28 degrees and fell through the night to about 18 degrees. The lower temperatures caused the compacted snow on the road to freeze and remain frozen."

Deike said attempts to plow the snow from the road were only somewhat successful because vehicles on the roads compacted the snow.

"The National Weather System forecasted 5 to 9 inches of snow," he wrote. "Salt was not initially applied to the streets due to the temperatures, quantity of snow predicted and rate of snowfall. Salt was applied towards the end of the storm and continues to be applied to the streets. However, the continued low temperatures hinder a quick melting process. The salt creates a slush that is then pushed off leaving more snow beneath it. The Public Works Department will continue to clear the streets as necessary."

Despite the public works department's efforts, numerous residents said they didn't believe the city had done enough.

"The sidewalks are better than the streets," Hagerstown resident Bob Smith said.

The city did a good job clearing streets in some places, but many streets were left covered with snow and slush, Antietam Street resident Lorissa Souders said.

"They did a good job on (Potomac Street), but you can't see ours. It's still snow covered," Souders said. "Honestly, they could have done a little bit better. They knew (the storm) was coming."

Penny Hartka of Pennsauken, N.J., said as she was stopped in traffic at Potomac and Washington streets that Hagerstown wasn't the only city having problems with snow removal.

"They're horrible," Hartka said of the snow-covered streets downtown. "These roads are as bad as they are back home."

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