County Departments Team Up To Battle Snow, Ice

by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

How do you cope with 10 inches of snow one week, overlaid by three-quarters of an inch a week later?

When one snow event was followed by an ice event recently, Washington County Division of Public Works (DPW) employees worked round the clock plowing snow, removing ice, and removing downed trees.

Folks usually think of County Highways Department crews in their sky-blue trucks plowing and salting roads. In instances such as the most recent, personnel from other DPW Departments fill in and help out.

During the ice storm and its aftermath, eight members of the County Solid Waste Department, 11 employees of the Buildings, Grounds and Parks (BG&P) Department, and 5 members of the Water and Sewer Department maintenance crews assisted by running snowplow-equipped trucks and clearing downed trees.

Highways Department Supervisor Ted Wolford commended Highways, Solid Waste, BG&P, and Water/Sewer crews for the job they did during the period from Tuesday, December 10 through Wednesday, December 11. Highway Crews reported for duty at 11 p.m. Tuesday evening, and other departments were activated Wednesday afternoon. As a result, more than 50 downed trees were cleared and icy roads salted by 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Without the other departments’ assistance, the job would likely have lasted until the early morning hours on Thursday, Wolford noted. By late Wednesday most County-maintained roads were passable, with icy patches almost eliminated.

“We used a new technique this time,” Wolford said, “pre-treating roads with an agent called Caliber M-1000, which contains magnesium chloride and works in temperatures down to minus 85 degrees.”

The process worked well, he concluded.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulations specify highway crews can work 16 hours at a stretch, then must have six hours of rest. By staggering crew hours, continued snowplowing coverage can be maintained, Wolford said. Other departments’ personnel assisting with clearing downed trees and plowing roads in subdivisions helped assure that County roads remained passable.

Calls to the County’s 9-1-1 Dispatch Center were very heavy during both events, Department of Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth said. One additional dispatcher was brought in to handle the increased volume of calls, and supervisory personnel worked long hours as well.

Dispatchers helped coordinate communications with Allegheny Energy and Coty Lights repair crews as power outages were reported, and opening of shelters was discussed with the American Red Cross. Need for shelters was not great in Washington County, although one elderly family was provided temporary shelter in Boonsboro, due to an outage there. Emergency Management Administrator Verna Brown was instrumental in coordination of that activity, Kroboth said.