With plows repaired, city, suburbs gear up for more heavy snow

Most of equipment is fixed after record winter storm

up to 10 inches expected

`The crews are ready to go'

Residents urged to shovel sidewalks, heed updates

February 28, 2003|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

As the winter-weary Baltimore region braced for up to another 10 inches of snow, city officials said they repaired most of the plows that broke during the recent record-breaking snowfall.

Crews plowed and salted roadways through last night in the city and suburbs. But public works officials urged residents to do their part by shoveling sidewalks.

"We're prepared for [the storm]. The equipment is ready to go, and the crews are ready to go," said David Fidler, spokesman for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works.

At one point during the Feb. 15 to Feb. 18 snowstorm - which dropped a record 28 inches - almost half of the city's fleet of 188 plows needed repairs. Since then, city workers have fixed all but 33 of these vehicles, meaning that 83 percent of the snow-removal equipment is up and running.

"I do not think that there were any lessons learned from the last storm - people worked as hard as they could, 12-hour shifts," said George Winfield, director of public works for the city. "We do have a fleet that has more aged equipment than new equipment. ... And the next step is to replace the fleet's equipment on a regular basis."

City residents are advised to watch television, listen to the radio or visit the city's Web site (www.baltimorecity.gov) for information. These sources will warn residents to move cars from streets marked as snow emergency routes if the city declares a "level two" snow alert, said Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"We'll keep the Web site and the media constantly updated, to warn the public before we start towing," Guillory said.

Many of the 33 plows being repaired in the city's Central Garage on Dickman Street in South Baltimore are having new salt-spreaders installed or their transmissions fixed, said Kurt L. Kocher, spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works.

Although almost half of the city's plows were out of service at one point during the last storm, on average about 71 percent of the plows were available, which allowed the city to clear the streets in about five days, city officials said.

In Baltimore County, two of 259 pieces of equipment were reported to be in the shop during the last storm. At least 94 percent of the equipment will be available to tackle this snowfall, Fidler said.

In Carroll County, officials will have all 49 of their plows on the roads through the night.

"This one will only be 10 inches, and we are prepared," said Doug Myers, Carroll's director of public works.

Unlike Baltimore City, Howard County had relatively few complaints about its snow removal.

"I think we were close to being one of the first counties done" with plowing, said public works Director James M. Irvin.

Since Howard replaced about half of its 93-vehicle snow clearing fleet during the past several years, there was almost no trouble with breakdowns, Irvin said.

In Anne Arundel County, two of its 107 plows are out of commission, both with transmission problems. Like many other jurisdictions, Arundel is plowing arteries first and then moving on to side roads.

Despite some grumbling in the city about snow removal, O'Malley's spokeswoman said residents should keep the city's performance in perspective.

"We think we did a pretty good job of handling a snowstorm of nearly 30 inches," Guillory said. "In [the snowstorm in] 1996, it took 12 days to clear out the side streets. In this storm, we cleared out the side streets in five days."

Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson, Larry Carson, Mary Gail Hare, Alyson Klein and Ted Shelsby contributed to this article.

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