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Highways On Shore Hardest Hit By Snowstorm

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BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP)–The snow we’ve been expecting has arrived.  Governor Martin O’Malley declared a state of emergency late Saturday night in anticipation of the storm and road crews have been preparing for heavy snowfall for more than a week.  You can see a slideshow of images from Sunday’s snow storm here.  Click here to send us your pictures.

State highway officials say southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore are getting the worst of a snowstorm that’s tracking its way up the East Coast. 

Kellie Boulware of the State Highway Administration says the Cambridge area in particular is getting heavy accumulation and that some roads there are treacherous, including U.S. 113. She says crews are making multiple passes to try to keep the pavement clear. 

Boulware says the agency has plenty of crews and equipment in place to handle the state-maintained roadways on the Eastern Shore and has not diverted any workers across the Bay Bridge. She says more than 2,000 state workers and contractors were deployed statewide Sunday to help remove snow from the highways.

The Baltimore-Washington area is largely being spared the wrath of a snowstorm that’s moving up the East Coast and
dumping large amounts of snow to the south and east. 

The National Weather Service has canceled a winter weather advisory for the region. 

Meteorological technician Calvin Meadows at the weather service says only trace amounts of snowfall were measured Sunday at Reagan National and BWI airports. He says light snow is expected in the region the rest of the day, with accumulation of less than an inch. 

More snow fell to the south and east of D.C. Three inches were reported in St. Mary’s County and 2 1/2 inches in Calvert County.

Weijia Jiang reports that a monster snowfall brewing down south has slammed into the Eastern Shore.

Crews in the city were fully deployed at 3 a.m. Sunday.

 “That’s about 150 to 180 pieces of equipment. We are paying close attention to overpasses and [ Jones Falls Expressway], which tend to freeze more,” said Adrienne Barnes, Baltimore Department of Transportation.

A MEMA official said the worst road conditions appear to be in Worcester and Wicomico counties.  They’ve already activated snow emergency plans.

“I think we are trying to improve our communications,” said the official.  “One of the things we’re going to be doing this year is if we need the National Guard, have local guardsmen ready.”

“We have about 235 vehicles in the fleet and 97% are up and ready.  We’re hitting different parts of the city at the same time.  We have over 11,000 tons of salt ready to use and we have a projection that we’re going to need 4,000 or 5,000 tons before this is all over,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  “We really come together as neighbors and as a community when we are stuck in the house.  I saw so many acts of kindness throughout the city.  What we learned is what we’re doing now–we have all the supplies ready.  We’re not scrambling.”

It’s a storm authorities have been watching since last week, when the State Highway Administration began pre-treating the roads and stocking up on fuel and salt.

“Our crews have been mobilized since 4 a.m. with 400 personnel and 318 trucks.  It kind of sounds like we’re mobilizing for war, but we won’t start spreading salt until the snow begins,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

“We have 165 contractors on standby [in addition to hundreds of trucks and plows].  We are prepared,” said Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold.  “Strong winds are kicking up.”

On Christmas day, there was a final push for safety.

“Certainly we do use a sugar molasses mixture we apply to the rock salt to make sure the ice doesn’t bond to the pavement. Salt brine to spread in advance of the storm as well,” said Kellie Boulware, SHA spokesperson.

Authorities are also closely monitoring the temperatures. In Baltimore city, the health commissioner declared Sunday a Code Blue cold weather alert. That means the elements may pose health risks to some.

“I’ve heard it’s gonna be pretty bad, to stay in,” said Gagan Singh, driver. “That’s what my friends are suggesting to me.”

“We’ve got about 300 pieces of equipment [on the Eastern Shore],” said Bob Rager, State Highway Administration in the Eastern Shore.  “Right now, given the volume of snow, we’re looking at a salting and plowing operation right now.”

“I think it’s dangerous to try to drive in bad weather. If you can avoid it, I think you should stay home,” said Annetta Simon, driver.

Officials agree, saying it’s the safest bet. And crews will have more room to work.

“Our shops in Princess Anne are reporting three inches right now,” Rager said.  “Most everything east of the Chesapeake Bay is clear.”

“Hopefully in another 12 hours this thing should be out of here and it should be a nice weekend next week in Ocean City,” said Joe Theobald, Director of Emergency Services for Ocean City.  “We were prepared for this one.  We had Public Works mobilize and it’s been uneventful up to this point in time.  We just have to pay attention to what Mother Nature is dishing out and handle it accordingly.”

“We actually handled things well [last year].  The key is to keep our troops refreshed because they really are working 20-hour days.  As part of my technology initiative, we’ve updated our county website…to give the county’s latest snow-fighting efforts as they occur,” Kamenetz said.  “We encourage everyone to stay at home, watch the Ravens win and not go outdoors.”

For those braving the snow anyway, authorities stress wearing multiple layers of loose-fitting clothing, having a warm head covering like a hat and scarf, and drinking plenty of non alcoholic fluids.

The state of emergency allows the governor to activate National Guard units if they’re needed to assist local emergency crews.

Because of the extremely cold weather, Baltimore city is keeping emergency shelters open for extended hours Sunday.  And if you need help heating your home, call 410-396-5555.

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