Joanne Shriner

Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY –Tuesday’s snow storm left the resort with a mess on its hands as the state and Town of Ocean City partnered to work around the clock to at least have roadways become passable as soon as possible.

Tuesday’s winter storm landed approximately 4 inches of snow in the resort area. With sustained winds at 20 to 30 mph, and gusts upward of 45 miles per hour, the winter storm brought frigid temperatures and blizzard-like conditions.
The Town of Ocean City’s winter storm plan was in effect as crews and contractors worked through the night and continued cleanup efforts in the following days.

“We are working closely with the State Highway Association and county and town partners to clear primary and secondary roads,” Town of Ocean City Emergency Services Director Joseph Theobald said on Wednesday. “Our Public Works Department has worked throughout the early morning hours to clear roadways and parking lots, however, we continue to encourage citizens to limit travel and use extra caution and reduce speed if they must be on the road.”

The town’s winter storm plan outlines basic operations, responsibilities and the actions to be taken during a winter storm event, Theobald explained.

“It spells out the actions of the different departments, and is to be better prepared in addressing the issues of a winter storm event,” Theobald said. “The roads are all passible but the conditions are certainly not perfect, and they are going to remain ice covered overnight and for the next couple of days until the sun starts to work on it, so people have to use caution when they travel.”

On Thursday, Public Works Director Hal Adkins reported snow removal efforts had dwindled down to salting intersections and clearing snow from fire hydrants and bus stops.

“The majority of the island is Coastal Highway, which is not our obligation because it is a State Highway road, and they came in right before the storm event and did a salting operation,” Adkins said. “We went at it from about 1:40 a.m. on Tuesday until about one in the afternoon at which time we sent most of the crews home because they had been here for a day and half, and we kept a skeleton crew on last night to address any calls that come in from the Public Safety Building’s dispatch center, and now I am hoping Mother Nature is going to start melting it away for us.”

The town found no use in salting roads to prepare for Wednesday night’s icy conditions as the temperature dropped down into the single digits, Adkins explained.

“We did not go into a salting operation yesterday because based on temperatures and the wind chill it was of very little benefit … our history here on the island proves that if it drops much more than 15 degrees salting is a waste of time,” he said. “We are out there today doing it with temperatures supposed to hit at least 28 degrees, and the winds have died down, so we started salting the intersections this morning at about 8 a.m. Not only at the intersections on the highway but also about 100 feet backed where cars begin to brake.”

As for Ocean City’s famous Boardwalk, it is left alone when it comes to snow plows to save the wood from any harm.

“There really is a minor concern with the Boardwalk relative to snow removal,” Adkins said. “Yes, I know it would be an inconvenience to someone wishing to walk or exercise but when you think about the other priorities in town with motorists, coupled with the fact that Boardwalk is made of wood and we don’t want to accelerate any damage to it, we stay off of it.”

However, on Wednesday afternoon, city staff was seen clearing the Boardwalk with a new piece of machinery, a “power broom”, to test it out in how it works in clearing snow from the Boardwalk.

“It appears the broom worked well, did not damage the wood, and in fact opened up a path for our visitors this coming weekend,” Adkins said.

According to the Town of Ocean City Department of Public Works Snow Removal Policy, the town assumes the basic responsibility for the control of snow and ice in city streets for the residents of Ocean City. This responsibility is shared in part by the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), when addressing Philadelphia Ave. and Coastal Hwy., in addition to Baltimore Ave. from the S. 1st Street to 15th Street.

The Public Works Construction Manager decides when to begin snow or ice control operations. The criteria for this decision is based on if snow accumulation on roadways reaches two inches or more in depth because large snowplows are not controllable unless snowfall is greater than two inches consequently snow-plowing operations will not be conducted for snowfall less than that amount.

Other criteria is if drifting snow causes problems for travel, icy conditions appear seriously affecting travel, time of snowfall in relationship to heavy use of streets, and pre-winter storm salt applications after winter storm warnings have been posted.

Initial plowing consists of a single pass in both directions for residential areas to allow an open path of travel. This method is required primarily to open as much roadway as possible with limited resources. At times of extreme snowfall, initial plowing may have to be repeated until snowfall stops or tapers off. After the roadways are initially opened and snowfall has diminished, the town will begin pushing the snow back to the side of the streets, citywide and completely clear the streets.

The SHA classifies the bus lanes in the city as shoulders, which relegates the necessary snow plowing to last to be maintained. Town forces maintains the bus lanes to insure safe passage of the buses, and at times may be required to clear piles left by the state plowing efforts at intersections to allow motorists easier access to and from state maintained right-of-ways.

The town has classified city streets based on function, traffic volume and significance to the welfare of the community. Those streets that provide for largest traffic volume and connect major sections of the town, plus provide emergency access fire, police, and medical services will be addressed first. The second priority streets are those that act as arteries off of the main thoroughfares. The third priority streets are low volume residential streets and municipal parking lots that are not supporting events or regular activities. The fourth priorities are alleys.

The town only maintains certain City sidewalks. These areas are adjacent to Town of Ocean City facilities/buildings, and Fire Departments. All of these specific areas will be addressed after adjacent streets have been plowed or simultaneously through an internally coordinated effort between the Construction Manager and the Maintenance Manager.

The Construction Manager determines when snow will be removed by truck from any specific area. Such snow removal will occur in areas where there is no room on the street for snow storage and in areas where accumulated piles of snow create a hazardous condition or limit visibility at intersections.

Snow that has been piled during initial plowing efforts will also be removed from ocean-side street ends that are elevated higher than Baltimore Ave. and Coastal Hwy., if the street end does not provide an area suitable for storage. This will eliminate the occurrence of daytime thawing, draining on these major arteries, then nighttime freezing problems.

In major snow events, it is the town’s policy to dump bulk snow into the bay or Inlet rather than hauling out of the town to increase productivity. The dumping is approved by Maryland Department of the Environment per a Memorandum dated Feb. 19, 2003.