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County, state crews stood ready

By KATIE FITZPATRICK

Staff writer

Predictions of snow accumulation in the area dropped from nearly 8 inches Wednesday morning to less than half an inch by the end of the day, but county officials remained prepared to treat roads if conditions worsened.

“Either way, you gotta be ready and be prepared best you can,” Donnie McCready, Calvert County Highway Maintenance Division chief, said Wednesday. “When they predict something like that, you gotta do your due diligence. We’re kind of at the mercy of the weather people telling us what’s coming.”

Original predictions of snow accumulation in the area Wednesday totaled between 4 and 8 inches, according to the National Weather Service. At about noon, the prediction total was lowered to between 2 and 4 inches, and then at about 1 p.m. to between 1 and 3 inches. Just before 2:30 p.m., the total daytime snow accumulation was lowered to less than a half-inch.

McCready said none of the county roads were pretreated Tuesday night before the predicted snowstorm because the county does not have the same materials available to them as the Maryland State Highway Administration to do so. Even if the roads had been salted, McCready said, had it been done too soon, “a lot of times cars will just blow it off the road or rain will wash it off the road … so we don’t have the pre-treat system like the state has.”

McCready said staff was called in at about 3 a.m. Wednesday due to the “first little blast” of snow that blanketed the area starting at about midnight.

“We had quite a few roads from about the middle to the north end of the county that had a pretty good amount of slush on it,” which were treated as needed, McCready said.

McCready said Wednesday that contractors were “on standby” if snow began accumulating, but the contractors were released Wednesday afternoon after the storm was downgraded from a warning. He said county crews remained on standby “in case something happened.”

On Thursday morning, McCready said a small crew had been kept overnight ready to go to work if the roads became icy, which did not happen. He said county crews did have to remove a few tree limbs that had fallen in the road due to strong winds, but “there wasn’t anything too dramatic.”

Lora Rakowski, public information officer for SHA, said at about 10 a.m. Wednesday, about an inch of rainfall had fallen throughout the county. She said Southern Maryland was on “the fringe of the storm” but officials were continuously monitoring the storm’s path.

According to a Wednesday morning SHA press release, more than 2,000 crews patrolled state roads, plowing and treating roads with salt. The Emergency Operations Center was activated and personnel continued to monitor conditions and deploy resources as needed, the press release states.

SHA facilities throughout the state were staffed and prepared for road conditions to potentially turn icy, as temperatures were predicted to steadily drop and precipitation, “be it in the form of rain or snow,” was expected to continue throughout the day, Rakowski said. SHA kept “a close eye on temperatures and forecast” and was prepared to deploy resources as needed, she said.

SHA crews remained prepared for additional precipitation Wednesday afternoon and evening, even though the predicted heavy snowfall mostly missed the area, according to an SHA press release sent Wednesday afternoon.

In the southern end of the county, “a little bit of flooding” was reported, SHA spokesperson Charlie Gischlar said Thursday morning. He said the minor flooding was caused by onshore flow, or strong winds produced by the “circular nature of the storm” pushing water inland.

“It didn’t really cause any problems, but during a major snowstorm, you don’t expect to see flooded roadways,” Gischlar said.

Gischlar said “here and there” a few trees fell on the roadway, but they did not cause any major problems and were quickly removed.

Less than 1,000 Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative customers in Calvert lost power during the storm, said SMECO government and public affairs manager Tom Dennison. The scattered outages, he said, were caused by strong winds and were “restored pretty quickly.”

SMECO pre-mobilized, Dennison said, and brought in additional crews to prepare for the storm.

“We had a total of almost 350 people ready to be dispatched,” he said Thursday morning. “We were fortunate that we didn’t have any major outages yesterday, but it’s not very far away that there was a lot of damage.”

Since Southern Maryland was not hit by the storm as other areas were, five service crews from SMECO were deployed to assist with power restoration in Rappahannock County, Va., Dennison said, where more than 50,000 people remained without power as of 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. spokesperson Rachael Lighty said a total of 13 outages, caused by two events, were reported Wednesday.

Lt. Steve Jones of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office said deputies handled only one, “very minor” accident Wednesday.

Maryland State Police Prince Frederick barrack assistant commander Det. Sgt. A. Paton said troopers responded to “a few accidents,” but “we didn’t have an extraordinary amount.” He said he believes the number of accidents was relatively low because of the fair amount of warning people received about the possibility of a severe snowstorm.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com