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Crews work to clear roads while kids enjoy winter fun


Staff writers

It was another snow day for many county residents and children Wednesday, but while some were out playing in the newly fallen snow and others spent the day cuddling inside, there also were several efforts underway to dig out and clean up.

In Calvert, snowfall ranged from nearly 5 inches in the northern portions of the county and tapered off to between 1 and 2 inches in the southern end, according to the National Weather Service.

State and county road crews were out on the roads since early Tuesday morning pre-treating the roads and stayed out all night plowing roadways.

Calvert County Highway Maintenance Division Chief Donas McCready said Wednesday afternoon that his county and contracted crews had been out since 7 a.m. Tuesday taking care of county roads.

He said he was hoping a majority of the workers would be able to go home late Wednesday afternoon, but some crews would be out overnight to handle problem spots and icing.

As of Wednesday afternoon, McCready said all the major plowing was finished, but some “slushy” spots remained that might be pushed aside.

Valerie Edgar, Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman, said Wednesday afternoon that at the height of the winter storm, there were about 2,700 employees out working on the roads.

“It was a long one and varying levels of accumulation, but required our crews to be out for a long time,” she said, describing the winter storm as the “first kind of big plow operation.”

With school districts, county, state and federal governments closed Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, and a staggered rush hour commute home Tuesday, Edgar said the crews were better able to clear and treat roadways.

“By staying up with it and keeping pace, our crews were really able to hit it hard and get things cleared for this morning [Wednesday],” she said.

Edgar said state highway isn’t anticipating the snow to melt with the freezing temperatures, so it isn’t expecting a refreeze.

On Tuesday when the county government closed at noon, county transportation services also were shut down. But by 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Transportation Services Supervisor Sandy Wobbleton said, all regular service was resumed.

Early Wednesday morning, some of the side roads still were covered in a thin layer of snow and ice causing some deviation from the service’s regular routes, she said.

“We’re anticipating running our full service tonight and first thing tomorrow morning,” Wobbleton said Wednesday.

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative spokesman Tom Dennison said Wednesday afternoon that the storm was a “nonevent” for SMECO regarding outages.

“We were very well prepared, very well staffed up,” Dennison said. “We were fortunate it was just snowfall and low temperatures.”

The only outage he was aware of, he said, was due to a vehicle hitting a pole early Wednesday morning on Main Street in Prince Frederick.

Capt. Steve Jones of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office said a contracted salt truck hit a telephone line on the north and southbound lanes of Route 4 between Kenmar and Main streets. Jones said the dump bed of the truck was raised and accidently struck the line, causing a shutdown of all lanes. Officers from the sheriff’s office and Maryland State Police were re-directing traffic until power was returned about noon Wednesday.

Jones and Det. Sgt. A. Paton of the Maryland State Police Prince Frederick barrack said there were many fender benders and vehicles off the roadway but no major accidents or fatalities.

“The only concern is when the temperature drops, some [of the melted snow] might turn to ice,” Paton said Wednesday. “We’re not out of the woods yet. Hopefully, we can get through this evening without any problems.”

In anticipation of the winter storm, Calvert County Public Schools decided Monday evening at about 8:20 to close schools for all students and 10- and 11-month employees. And, in anticipation of the early morning icy road conditions and cleanup efforts, the school system decided Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. to close for students and all employees except those designated as emergency personnel.

Making a day of it

Because of school closures, the Rev. Robert Hahn as well as the staff of Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown decided to open their campus to the public and allow families to enjoy their snow-covered hills and lots of free hot chocolate Wednesday. Hahn made the announcement for the church’s “Legacy Now Sled Day” event, which was shared through the community and Calvert Resources website.

“Facebook was burning up,” Jeremy Robinson, community life pastor at Chesapeake Church, said of the approximately 180 “shares” on Facebook. “It’s mostly the kids have been out of the house for several days, and this was a chance to do something fun.”

Wednesday marked the second snow day this week for students, and with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday and another snow day called for Thursday, students had an extended six-day weekend.

“We have such a great campus here, and we love people,” Robinson said. “Building community is a big part of what Chesapeake Church does. … It’s a natural thing to open up our campus on a day like today.”

With about eight volunteers ready to help shovel snow and serve up to 600 cups of hot chocolate, families brought sleds of all shapes and sizes and snowboards to the church’s hillside.

Siobhan Hensley and her sons, Rhys, 10, and Regan, 9, of Chesapeake Beach are members of Chesapeake Church and were happy to have the extra practice to prepare them for their skiing trip this weekend. Rhys was practicing his snowboarding skills on one of the three ramps made on the hill.

“This is awesome,” Hensley said. “It’s the perfect practice.”

Noell Wilson and her daughter, Ava, 9, and twins, Alex and Mia, both 7, found out about the sledding on Facebook. Wilson said her family started snowboarding recently and were staying steady throughout the day.

“We’re having a good time,” Wilson said as she watched Alex slide down the hill on her snowboard.

After about two hours, John Ciccone and his daughter, Aariana, 9, of Chesapeake Beach were the “daredevils” of the family and were happy to get out of the house and enjoy the snow.

“She’s having lots of fun,” Ciccone said.

With schools closed again Thursday for all students and 10- and 11-month employees, Nancy V. Highsmith, interim superintendent, said the reason for the third closure this week was due to ice. The chemicals put in the school parking lots to melt snow and ice can only work at a certain temperature, Highsmith said Thursday morning, and with temperatures remaining just above single digits, the ice had not started to melt.

“I was checking the school parking lots last night, and they’re all ice,” Highsmith said. “I would have loved to have had a two-hour delay today, but I can’t risk the safety of students and staff.”

Highsmith said Thursday marked the last snow day for the school year. If any more storms come along, the school year will have to be extended through June, Highsmith said, to account for the 180 days students must be in school by law.