Less than 3 inches of snow fell last winter, but the winter of 2009-2010 saw consecutive blizzards that brought down buildings.
The forecast for this winter is unclear, but when snow does fall, there are thousands of miles of roadways in St. Mary’s County to clear to keep people moving.
Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in October that this winter is particularly confounding to predict. The Mid-Atlantic region is forecast to have equal chances of normal, warmer or colder temperatures and the same goes for normal, lesser or heavier precipitation.
The St. Mary’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation has $170,300 budgeted for snow removal this season. The department has 400 tons of sand and 1,600 tons of road salt at various locations, said Director George Erichsen, and another 400 to 500 tons of sand/calcium mix.
The county has more than 60 pieces of equipment for snow removal for 1,260 miles of county roads, he said.
The Maryland State Highway Administration maintains 487 miles of state roads in St. Mary’s. The Loveville shop has 16 state trucks, 40 contractors and capacity for 6,000 tons of salt to contend with snow and ice.
The SHA and the Maryland Transportation Authority maintain 17,818 miles of roads in the state.
In the past 12 years, the average number of winter snowstorms in Southern Maryland has been seven, the same number as the Eastern Shore, said SHA. The Baltimore/Washington, D.C. metro areas sees an average of eight snowstorms each winter while Western Maryland gets 30 on average.
Last winter’s snow removal cost was low — $12,500, Erichsen said. The severe winter of 2009-2010 cost the county $680,000, the most in several decades. Up to 62 inches of snow fell in St. Mary’s, breaking the previous record of 59.2 inches at a location in Hollywood, dating back to the winter of 1995-1996.
Erichsen said it costs county government about $38,000 a day for snow removal, without the use of outside contractors, for a snow storm of 4 inches or less. A larger storm that requires contractors pushes the daily cost for removal and clearing to $98,000 a day.
Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said drivers need to decrease their speeds when there is winter weather. “Winter weather can post numerous challenges for motorists, even those in four-wheel drive vehicles,” he said. “The best policy is to allow plenty of time, buckle up and not be in a hurry. Motorists should stay well behind our maintenance crews working to clear the roads.”
There are different ways for motorists to check on road conditions without having to be out in the weather, he said. Using www.MD511.org, drivers can have a text or email sent to them on the conditions of the roads they designate as their usual routes.
Drivers can see real-time road conditions by visiting www.roads.maryland.gov and clicking CHART, which show live traffic camera feeds. There is a CHART camera on the St. Mary’s County side of the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge to Calvert County.