OCEAN CITY – Mother Nature graced Ocean City with the gift of a blizzard this holiday season.
As of Wednesday, the Ocean City Public Works Department was able to slow down long enough to take the time to discuss their snow removal efforts during the week.
According to Public Works Manager Dick Malone, when any big snowstorm approaches Ocean City the department prepares by making sure the salt trucks are filled and the plows and loaders are on hand.
“Our pre-storm work means getting the equipment ready and scheduling the people, and we did all that,” Malone said.
City Manager Dennis Dare said that over the holiday weekend the public works crews were working around the clock in preparing and fighting off the snow.
Making sure there was enough staff to battle the snowstorm was a minor issue for the department, due to cut backs in staff this year.
“Because of the reduction in the numbers of public works employees, we don’t have the luxury anymore of having a crew of guys come for 12 hrs and another crew come for another 12 hours,” Malone said. “We just don’t have the people anymore.”
Malone said that it was easier battling last year’s storms due to the fact there were more public works employees on hand.
But on the other hand, Malone said, “This year we depended on one set of guys, the actual removal effort went about the same but it was done with half the amount people. And they did an outstanding job.”
This year the snow removal squad consisted of a team of 14 members, who at one point worked for 32 hours straight.
But, when it comes down to it there was still only so many plows and salt loaders that could be utilized.
“We put somebody in every one of them and moved snow as long as we could,” Malone said.
The final measurement of snow the resort received was 13.5 inches. But, because of the massive amount of wind, the snow drifted to some areas to form three-foot mounds of snow and other areas to have none.
“Places were hit with the west wind, like the Boardwalk was buried,” Malone said.
Malone also explained that on 94th Street where there is always a wind tunnel, it was impossible to keep that area clear during the storm because no matter how many times it was plowed an hour later it would look like it had never been touched.
During snowstorms in Ocean City, the snow removal on the city’s streets is a team effort between the town’s Public Works Department and the State Highway Administration (SHA).
“They [SHA] had four dump trucks making circles on Coastal Highway both salting and plowing,” Malone said.
The SHA’s efforts have continued throughout the week until the plows and salt loaders reached pavement.
“If you leave slush out there over night, it becomes frozen,” Malone said. “Then they’re back out there the next morning spreading more salt. It’s been really hard to get Coastal Highway cleared, and they did a really great job.”
Ocean City’s Public Works Department worked to make sure all side streets have at least one path in and one path out.
“We are trying to widen the paths where the side streets hit Coastal Highway, like intersections,” Malone explained. “Because when the state guys come by they push the snow back into the side streets, so we’ve got to clear that several times.”
Dare added that there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that many don’t realize the department also has to focus on besides getting the streets clear.
Other priorities include digging out fire stations, hydrants and bus stations. Also, clearing out Northside Park so Winterfest of Lights can continue its holiday operations.
“Another thing they [public work employees] have to do is dig out the storm drain inlets so that the melting snow can drain on Coastal Highway,” Dare said.
As of Wednesday, Malone said the department was down to “the little things, and fine tuning things.”
Because the snowdrifts had affected those homes that faced westbound winds more than other residents, the department has made efforts in digging their cars out of the three- to five-foot mounds of snow.
“We did go help a few…it is against policy but we had a lot more snow then we usually have,” Malone said. “If we go by with a plow with somebody that has a three-foot drift, we make five feet of packed snow and that is kind of hard on people.”
Malone said the department has been receiving complements and even gifts from gracious residents for their hard work.
“I think the people know what we were fighting with and we did everything we could, it just takes a little bit of time, that’s all,” Malone said.