Snow buries Garrett

I-68 may be closed again

February 27, 2010|By Frank D. Roylance

Two feet of fresh snow and high winds made Garrett County roads dangerous and all but impassable Friday. Emergency managers there reimposed a local state of emergency they had finally lifted Tuesday, 2 1/2 weeks after the twin February snowstorms.

Plows couldn't keep ahead of freshly fallen and drifting snow, officials said, and emergency crews were busy clearing traffic accidents, with numerous injuries, on Interstate 68.

"If you don't have to be out in this, don't bother coming out," advised Sgt. James Hare of the Maryland State Police. "These are blizzard conditions. They will travel at their own risk."

While I-68 was not officially closed, he said, eastbound traffic was stopped at 2:30 p.m. just east of the Garrett/Allegany County line because of an accident about 11 a.m. Friday.

County officials said the snow was extraordinary, even for Garrett.

"I've been in public safety for 35 years, and I've never seen storms one after another, with the cumulative effect being like this," said Brad Frantz, Garrett's director of emergency management.

"Road conditions are bad," he said. "So we are strongly urging folks to not travel in Garrett County right now. The roads are basically impassable."

The National Weather Service is predicting another 10 inches to 20 inches of snow at McHenry through today.

The State Highway Administration issued a warning of poor driving conditions in Garrett and western Allegany counties.

"Travel conditions are extremely hazardous ... causing major travel issues along Interstate 68 and U.S. 40 west of Cumberland," officials said. "SHA maintenance crews continue to plow roads in the area, although the heavy snow and high winds are causing major delays and hazardous conditions."

Organizers of the "Deep Creek Dunk," a fundraiser for the Special Olympics scheduled for today in McHenry, are urging people not to try to make the drive because of the poor road conditions in Garrett County. Participants already in town were invited to take part in the dunk, at 2 p.m., and "scaled-back" festivities afterward.

I-68 was closed for several hours Thursday afternoon after a 15-car pileup near Finzel, at the Garrett-Allegany County line. Five people were taken to area hospitals.

Shortly after the interstate was reopened, there was another incident involving injuries, according to Frantz.

Frantz said he had just finished a conference call with the National Weather Service. "We had one report of 23 inches of new snow," he said. "That's on top of what we already had. We are probably close to 250 inches of snow for the year now ... more than 20 feet."

Even for snow-savvy Garrett County, Frantz said, "this is way beyond normal."

During an earlier storm, firefighters were unable to reach a house fire, and the home was "a total loss," he said. No one was injured. "Pretty much any fire or EMS incident, we're sending a plow truck ahead of it."

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