Counties ready for snow

Balto., Howard using high-tech tools to alert residents

December 31, 2010|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

Area counties have a message for winter weather: Bring it.

Baltimore County officials have an army of resources available to combat snow and ice: a $6.2 million snow- removal budget, more than 52,000 tons of salt, 300 trucks and 400 employees to clear 2,600 miles of roadway.

"Whenever it arrives, we are ready," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said. "Our drivers are prepared to clear the roads within 18 to 24 hours of a snowstorm."

The county is also using high-tech tools to keep residents informed. The storm operations website includes the "Snow Fighter" blog (baltimorecountymd.gov/Blogs/snowfighter — don't let the cute snowman fool you), which provides information about salt stash levels, clear roads, frequently asked questions — such as, "When will my street be plowed?" — and weather tips.

Last winter brought more than 30 inches of snow to the county in one week. Plows and salt trucks were able to clear highways and many roads soon after a late December storm, but the February blizzards were tougher opponents, requiring the county to rent about 150 loaders to supplement its usual 300-vehicle fleet.

Residents can report plowing needs to snow@baltimorecounty.gov.

"We understand the frustration that all of our residents feel when they wait for their streets to get plowed," Kamenetz said. "The use of the technology will answer a lot of questions that citizens generally have and also give confidence that the job is in fact being performed."

Howard County is also using the Web to keep residents informed, including County Executive Ken Ulman's Facebook page. A snowplow tracker map on its website will be updated every 15 minutes during a storm, officials said.

Updates will be available on the Howard County information hot line at 410-313-2900.

Poor snow-removal efforts can mean sudden death to a political career, Kamenetz noted.

"I understand that picking up the trash and clearing the streets of snow is an important example of a successful elected official," he said. "And I hope to be successful."

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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