Cold temperatures mean ice, snow will stay on roads

January 19, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer Staff writers Anne Haddad, Mary Gail Hare, Traci A. Johnson, Jackie Powder and Katherine Richards contributed to this article.

Whatever your street or road looks like this morning, get used to it.

"The road conditions out there are probably going to stay that way for several days," said Benton Watson, Carroll County roads operations bureau chief.

He said snow removal crews face some intractable problems: low temperatures, low salt supplies and not enough traffic for salt to be effective.

The bad road conditions, paired with the predicted sub-zero temperatures overnight, prompted county officials to close schools today and delay the opening of county offices at least one hour to 9 a.m.

The delay will spread out the traffic and let employees travel later after road crews have had more time to clear and salt the streets, said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell.

Maintenance and custodial crews were having a tough time yesterday and Monday clearing and salting school sidewalks, parking lots and driveways, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

Because of the single-digit or lower temperatures, he said, "The salt is not making a dent in the ice.

"We were able to get the snow cleared, but the ice is a problem."

The school closing -- the fourth weather-related closing this winter -- means one less day of spring break for students and staff. Yesterday, the schools used up their third built-in snow day the school calendar.

To attend the state-mandated 180 days, students and staff will have to give up the first day of spring break, March 31, which is Holy Thursday.

The next holiday to be dropped, if students are off for another snow day, is April 5, the Tuesday after Easter. Good Friday and Easter Monday are state holidays.

Salt supplies ran low for county highway and school maintenance crews and for the city of Westminster.

City trucks were using salt only for areas such as intersections and steep hills or for emergency needs. The county government has just enough salt left for "maybe a small storm," Mr. Watson said.

Both public works departments were hoping to get salt deliveries today.

A load of calcium chloride, about 75 80-pound tubs, arrived for school maintenance crews Friday and was distributed yesterday, Mr. Smith said. He said the schools had trouble finding a supplier who had any of the in-demand salt on hand.

But under current weather conditions, salt just refreezes after it's spread, said Donald A. Gross, Westminster streets superintendent.

Mr. Watson faced the same problem with county roads. When temperatures drop to about 16 degrees, "Salt basically stops working unless you have a lot of traffic like [on Routes] 97 and 140," he said.

Westminster's streets department uses about 800 tons of salt in an average year, Mr. Gross said. Already this winter, the department has used more than 1,000 tons.

"I've been 20 years here and I've never seen the streets this way," he said. "I don't like to see my city looking this way."

The county government was down to about 2,000 to 3,000 tons yesterday, Mr. Watson estimated. County crews spread about 100 tons of salt an hour for 24 hours during the storm that began about 7 a.m. Monday.

County, town budgets shrink

The county is about $215,000 over the $540,000 budgeted for snow removal in 1993-1994, said Gary Horst, county capital budget supervisor. Mr. Horst said the budget covers overtime salaries, six contract trucks that supplement the county's 48-truck fleet in snow emergencies and salt at $30 a ton.

Other areas were feeling the snow-removal budget crunch too, though more than two months of winter -- traditionally the snowiest in Maryland -- remain.

"With the latest storm, our budget [for snow removal] is about gone," Manchester Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. said yesterday.

"Most of the storms have been on weekends, and that means time-and-a-half."

If there are any more storms this season, Mayor Warehime said, the town will have to take the money for cleanup out of its road resurfacing budget. He said the town had not had trouble getting salt.

The Sykesville Town Council amended its public works budget last week to allow for purchase of more snow-removal materials.

"Basically we doubled the budget for materials," said Town Manager James L. Schumacher.

The town took delivery last week of a $2,000 load of salt. The 40 tons fill the salt barn and usually last through three snows, said Mr. Schumacher. Sykesville has not experienced any difficulty getting salt, although the last load took slightly longer than the usual one day to arrive, he said.

Sykesville keeping up

"We are doing OK and keeping up with plowing our 11 miles of roads," he said.

The plowing is putting a dent in the $4,500 set aside for overtime pay. Five maintenance workers have put in two 14-hour days this week and will probably be back in at 4 a.m. today, said Mr. Schumacher. The town is granting municipal employees liberal leave for weather-related absences.

Hampstead Mayor Clint Becker said Tuesday the town is close -- "within a storm or two" -- to using up the $9,100 budgeted for snow removal this year.

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