Ocean City Today
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Public Works, SHA lead plow effort

By Greg Ellison | Jan 11, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison

(Jan. 12 2018) Plows and backhoes continued digging out Ocean City this week, following a blizzard last Thursday that dropped nearly a foot of snow and rocked the resort with gale force winds.

Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins said the winter storm, which covered Ocean City with 11 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service, pushed resources to the limit.

“Though some would have desired roadway access sooner, please realize we had an entire town to clear with a small amount of manpower and equipment,” he said. “We are ‘sized’ for our typical single snowfall events that range from 2 to 4 inches … not blizzard conditions.”

A day before the storm, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties.

From late Wednesday through Friday evening, it was ‘all hands on deck,’ as Ocean City deployed more than 30 pieces of snow removal equipment: plows, loaders, backhoes and beach tractors, Adkins said.

“We tapped manpower from multiple divisions of [public works] – construction, maintenance and wastewater operators – to run the equipment,” he said.

Meanwhile, Coastal Highway and a stretch of Baltimore Avenue were taken care of by State Highway Administration.

“Storms coming up from the south are typically bad,” said SHA spokesperson Charlie Gischlar. “With bitter cold temperatures … and hurricane force winds, it was not a good day to be outside.”

Gischlar said minimal snowfall totals across the bay bridge permitted state resources to be diverted from areas more accustomed to snow accumulation.

“This is the opposite of what usually happens [because] usually Western Maryland gets hammered,” he said. “We were able to bring down large pieces of equipment normally used to clear highways.”

As snowdrifts began amassing on Thursday, Adkins said conditions became dangerous enough to momentarily suspend road-clearing efforts.

“Facing ‘white-out conditions’ during the peak of the storm, we were forced to shut down operations for operating safety,” he said.

State highway crews also found the storm to be daunting, as whipping winds quickly erased any signs of progress, Gischlar said.

“We would treat the whole highway and 10 minutes later it was covered,” he said.

After initial work to open access to Ocean City’s streets, Adkins said the next phase of road clearing operations began over the weekend.

“With the bulk of the snow pushed to simply make the town passable, we turned our efforts to bus stop access, fire hydrant access, commercial dumpster access [and] intersection visibility,” he said.

By Saturday, Adkins said the workload was reduced enough to only require eight pieces of heavy equipment to tackle the remaining details, along with continued state highway support.

“They deployed supplemental crews/contractors over the weekend to further clear the bus lanes and side streets … for vehicular access to the highway,” he said.

With large amounts of snow ready to melt, Adkins said the next concern was potential flooding from clogged drain basins, while Gischlar noted state highway brought in additional contractors to avoid a potentially icy scenario.

“All of our drainage is on bus lanes on Coastal Highway,” Gischlar said. “Besides clearing out the pavement, it’s also just as important to get drains clear.”

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