Region bracing for another snowstorm

December 08, 2005|By JOSH MITCHELL | JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTER

Standing near a towering mound of road salt and a new $85,000 plow, Baltimore County officials declared themselves ready yesterday to melt ice and push snow - and they could get their chance tonight.

Two days after the season's first storm, officials throughout the region braced yesterday for the second, with the National Weather Service predicting 2 to 4 inches of snow overnight tonight. The first snowflake is expected about midnight.

"It looks like it'd be just in time for morning rush hour Friday for most of the precipitation," said Steve Rogowski, a forecaster at the regional weather service office in Sterling, Va.

Jurisdictions have armed themselves with additional tools this year - from new trucks to global positioning systems to greater quantities of salt.

Baltimore transportation officials are expanding their use of blue salt, which is believed to help residents see which streets have been salted during snowy or icy conditions.

Baltimore County's fleet of 300-plus plows and salt trucks will have at their disposal 47,000 tons of road salt - 7,000 tons more than the county started with last year. The salt is being stored in several sheds that the county built this year.

`Ahead of the curve'

"We want to be ahead of the curve," Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said yesterday at the Highway Shop 5 salt storage shed in Towson.

The county, which has a $5 million snow-removal budget, replaced 40 of its aging snowplows this year.

The older trucks had been around since the early 1990s and had "seen better days," said Tim Burgess, the Baltimore County highways chief. "Salt is tough on vehicles - the hoses and the brakes and the hydraulic lines."

Anne Arundel County outfitted 80 of its vehicles this year with GPS equipment, said Pam Jordan, a county public works spokeswoman.

The equipment allows workers to see which neighborhoods have been plowed and to quickly find a plow in emergencies.

The new technology will come in handy in a county with about 1,750 miles of roads, Jordan said.

Since Monday's storm, Harford County has replenished its five salt "domes" with about 3,000 tons each. The county, which has a $1.7 million snow-removal budget, has 77 dump trucks and 56 pickups, as well as stations in which public works employees can take naps during long shifts.

Howard County was expecting a shipment of road salt this morning to replenish salt used during Monday's storm, which dropped 2.8 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Howard workers sprayed 2,500 tons of salt on the roads for that storm, said William Malone, the county's chief of highways.

"We used very little salt for the last storm," Jordan said. "We really just need to make a decision about extra personnel."

In Annapolis, public works employees use a less corrosive form of salt in the downtown historic district to preserve the brick roads, said Elvis Mackell, a department dispatcher.

The State Highway Administration, which manages state routes such as York Road and Reisterstown Road in Baltimore County, as well as portions of Interstate 95, employs 2,500 workers during storms and has more than 300,000 tons of salt on hand.

Make room

Officials are urging motorists to park cars off public roads during any snowfall to make room for plows and salt trucks.

Baltimore County Health Director Pierre Vigilance had a two-word message: "Slow down."

That goes for drivers as well as pedestrians, said Vigilance, pointing out that people risk overexertion, hypothermia and other ailments during snowstorms.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Annie Linskey, Larry Carson, Justin Fenton and Mary Gail Hare contributed to this report.

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