OCEAN CITY — Despite being admittedly ill equipped, the Ocean City Public Works Department said it was well prepared for last weekend’s snowstorm and is ready for whatever may fall on the resort this weekend.
An unusually large amount of snow settled on the peninsula last Saturday, forcing the State Highway Administration (SHA) and the town’s construction and maintenance divisions of public works to work around the clock to relocate almost a foot of snow that settled in and around Ocean City.
“I’ve been here 26 years, and that’s the most snow that I remember falling at once since probably in or around 1986,” said Public Works Director Hal Adkins, “but, what the public needs to realize is that we are not equipped and never will be for a snow event of this magnitude for Ocean City. Therefore, the cleanup procedure and timing will in fact take longer than what some expectations may be.”
The Mayor and City Council praised Public Works Project Manager Dick Malone at Monday’s night’s meeting for leading the team of approximately 25 workers that essentially dug Ocean City out of a town-wide snowdrift.
Malone said the town’s seven snow removal vehicles dumped more than 140 tons of rock salt on resort roads over the course of three days and they have already ordered more for the potential storm this weekend.
“We really were as prepared as we could be, but we didn’t think it was going to be close to a foot of snow,” said Malone, “but it started right when they said it was going to, and we started working guys around the clock when it really started snowing.”
SHA’s snow removal teams, usually in charge of plowing Coastal Highway, and much of Baltimore Avenue were allegedly caught up in other shore areas and were slow to get to the resort when the snow started to pile up on Coastal Highway. As a result, local officials decided to start clearing Coastal Highway until the proverbial cavalry arrived.
“In my 18 years, we’ve probably had only one storm that was even close to this much snow, and to be honest, we are used to plowing less than four inches at most,” said Malone. “We had some guys that had never plowed snow before because we had to get everyone on the road in an all hands on deck situation. Granted, they are truck drivers and heavy machine operators so we were in good hands, but it’s a whole different story when you are in a blinding snowstorm driving on a sheet of ice in several tons worth of dump truck.”
Despite being essentially shorthanded to clear the resort’s roads, Adkins said that all went as well as could be expected, as crews worked vigorously in 12-hour shifts all night Saturday and through much of Sunday.
“I’m not sure if the public is aware of this, but we do have an official snow removal plan that addresses the specific methodology about where we plow and what the order of priority locations are,” said Adkins. “In simpler terms, we work our way in reverse to reach the homeowner so we do Coastal Highway first, then the likes of Baltimore and St. Louis Avenue, then hit secondary streets that connect to larger residential areas like 32nd, 94th, 120th, 136th, and 142nd streets for instance, then we work our way back into the neighborhoods.”
Malone says that although he wasn’t surprised with inevitable complaint calls that came streaming in concerning the timeliness of the snow removal, he was surprised by how many people tried to venture out into the storm itself.
“You’d be amazed by how many people were driving on the roads and trying to see snow on the beach,” said Malone. “There were some cases where our crews had to help move cars out of the way, which we usually don’t do for reasons of liability, just to continue to do our job.”
SHA’s Wayne Weichman said that over the course of the weekend, their 55-truck fleet spread over 2500 tons of rock salt between the four counties of District 1, but also noted, that if this weekend’s potential storm results in more heavy snow, crews will be ready to go.
“It was long hours, and it was pretty tough on our guys, but we just tried to give them a break after driving for 12 hours straight,” said Weichman. “We have another 7,200 tons of salt on hand now, and we have more ordered, so we are more than ready to handle another storm.”
Local crews note that the public’s frustration with often having to dig out of the storm two and three times is unfortunate but more than likely unavoidable.
“The biggest issue we face in an event of this sort is covering people’s driveways so timing is a key,” said Adkins. “Our initial goal is to plow a drivable path on every single street in town, but in a case of a snow fall of this magnitude in Ocean City, by the time we get the opportunity to get back into any neighborhood a second time, most of the property owners have taken upon themselves to dig out their driveway, so when we clear the road for the second or third time, it re-blocks their driveway, and that makes them not happy with us at all.”