- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
County and state highway authorities have been diligently working to maintain the roadways over the last week as winter weather has moved through the region and left snow, sleet and freezing rain.
Donny McCready, county highway maintenance division chief, said Monday afternoon he felt the overall response to the weather went “pretty well.” He added that he may have called for additional contractors “a little earlier” Thursday morning as more snow fell than anticipated, “but we did OK.”
McCready said Thursday morning and Friday evening all county and contracted crews were out salting and plowing roadways. For Monday morning’s freezing rain, he said all highway maintenance division crews were on duty.
Charlie Gischlar, a Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman, said Monday morning the response efforts “went well. We’re very happy.”
Neither county nor state crews pretreated roadways in the region last Wednesday.
When weather moved in, the temperatures were “extremely sub-freezing,” Gischlar said, so SHA couldn’t pretreat the roads. He said if they had, “it would have froze immediately.” SHA and county crews waited for the snow before salting and it, along with the influx of traffic, was “effective.”
“The biggest thing is watching the forecast … and giving your best estimate” of when precipitation may begin, McCready said.
In Southern Maryland, where snowfall ranged from 3 to 6 inches in some areas, Gischlar said crews had to do some plowing before treating the roads — as did county crews, McCready said.
For the additional snowfall Friday, Gischlar said the residual salt from the previous treatment acted as a pretreatment.
“We warned people rush hour wasn’t going to be pretty,” Gischlar said of Friday. He said it was a tough commute in most areas, not necessarily caused by the status of the roads because “the roads were fine,” but from commuters naturally slowing down because of the weather conditions.
“We were more than prepared for this,” Gischlar said of the freezing rain the region received Monday morning. “If we could just tell folks to slow down.”
Hypothermia death reported in county
The first death related to hypothermia in the county this winter occurred in Lusby. Dr. Laurence Polsky, the county health officer, said the 50-year-old woman was discovered in her home late New Year’s Eve.
He explained that the victim, who suffered from agoraphobia — which is an anxiety disorder in which a person has attacks of intense fear and anxiety of being in places where it is hard to escape or where help might not be available, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine website — usually left notes on her front door for her neighbor as her only contact to someone outside of her home. When the neighbor became worried, Polsky said she notified the police and when they arrived, the victim was in cardiac arrest and unresponsive.
Polsky said she was taken to Calvert Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead early New Year’s Day.
He said it is not known if there were any other underlying causes of death, as she had no prior records.
In an effort to combat hypothermia deaths and other winter ailments, many area churches are sheltering homeless people by participating in Safe Nights of Calvert County. Safe Nights is an interfaith emergency shelter program, which began sheltering Nov. 11 and will run through March 31.
Program coordinator Mary Ann Zaversnik said Monday morning there are currently six people enrolled in the Safe Nights program, down from about 11 earlier this month.
“Our people come and go,” Zaversnik said, adding that the program may be getting a few more participants in February. “We thought we would be getting more phone calls [because of the low temperatures]. And there are some people that don’t want to come in. But our doors are always open.”
Zaversnik said anyone who needs shelter with Safe Nights should call 443-486-8670. Shelter is provided by appointment only, and applicants must go through a background check and must sign a guest agreement and an alcohol and drug abuse policy stating they will not use drugs or alcohol in the shelter or come in under the influence. Anyone with a felony conviction cannot participate in the program.