In preparation for a winter storm that was expected to move into the Tri-State area Tuesday evening, road crews were pre-treating the roads, plow trucks were positioned in key locations, and utility workers from three companies in Ohio were on the way to the area.
The Maryland State Highway Administration on Tuesday was pre-treating secondary roads in Washington County, including Maryland and U.S. numbered routes, with salt brine, according to an email from SHA District Community Liaison Heather Keels. Trucks spray water with melted salt on the road to help prevent ice and snow from sticking to the pavement.
“This allows SHA crews to be ahead of the game and reduces overall salt usage,” Keels said in the email. “We have four contract spray-rigs with 3,000 gallon tanks that apply the brine in a 10-foot swath at a rate of 40-50 gallons per lane mile.”
The trucks are not pre-treating the interstates because they would have to do the work at a speed too slow for the normal flow of traffic, Keels said.
After the snow begins to accumulate, Keels said the SHA will have plow trucks and a snow blower if necessary to clear the snow. The SHA has 25 plow trucks and 53 contractor plows in Washington County, Keels said. It maintains 276 miles of roadway in Washington County, but when accounting for miles per lane, that works out to 750 miles, Keels said.
“We will have our plowing crews out in full force, but it’s important to remember that if we do get the amount of accumulation that’s predicted, it will take several hours before bare pavement is feasible, so if you can avoid travel (Wednesday), please do so,” Keels said. “If not, make sure you take it slow, leave lots of following distance, and never pass a snow plow.”
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the area, and forecast calls for 8 to 12 inches of snow to fall in the region before the storm moves out Wednesday night.
Washington County Highway Department Director Ed Plank said that the department has tentative plans to send out all 36 plow trucks at midnight Tuesday to their designated locations throughout the county to plow the snow and salt the roads. That time could change depending on how bad the weather gets, he said.
The department is also prepared to send out an additional 10 to 12 emergency crews this morning to deal with any trees and wires brought down by the storm, along with heavy equipment, which includes six rubber tire loaders and three large graders if the snow keeps piling up.
“Wet snow is hard to handle because it’s hard to maneuver,” Plank said. “You can’t control wet snow. It kind of goes where it wants to go.”
The Washington County Highway Department maintains more than 800 miles of roadway when accounting for miles per each lane, Diane Mongan of the department said.
In the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, the West Virginia Division of Highways is using salt brine to pre-treat the interstates, state and U.S. numbered roads, and paved secondary roads off those roads that have high volumes of traffic, District Maintenance Engineer Barry Knotts said.
The agency also has plans to position plow trucks in locations that might be more heavily affected by the snow, Knotts said.
“It’s better to have a truck on site than to plow its way through the storm,” he said.
To deal with potential electrical issues, FirstEnergy Corp. utility crews from Ohio Edison, Toledo Edison, and Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. are all on the way from Ohio to the area, Potomac Edison spokesman Todd Meyers said. About one-third of the crews will stay in the Cumberland, Md., area, and two-thirds of the crews will stay in hotels around the Hagerstown area.
“Having a larger contingency in the Hagerstown area will allow them to run down I-81 to West Virginia, move east to Frederick, and work in Washington County,” Meyers said. “Hazard responders will be in position (Tuesday) evening.”
The company will send a hazard responder to locations where wires are reported down to keep people safe and assess the damage, Meyers said. Eventually a lineman will come out and, if it is an energized line, cut it. The lineman then may leave the scene due to the fact that the company has to prioritize where to focus on restoring power.
Crews first have to make sure the transmissions and substations, which move electricity to the regions, are working first. Then they focus on getting power restored to public safety areas such as police or fire departments as well as hospitals and nursing homes. After that, they will look at all the outages, and work on the lines that affect the most customers first.
Preparing for power outages
Here is a list of tips from offered by FirstEnergy in a press release and Potomac Edison Spokesman Todd Meyers to prepare for the winter storm and deal with potential power outages.
• Keep a flashlight and extra batteries on hand before the storm arrives so you do not have to go out into the storm and get them after the power goes out.
• Have extra blankets or sleeping bags to stay warm.
• Do not use gas stoves, kerosene heaters, or other heat sources that could cause carbon monoxide gas to build up.
• Be careful when using candles. They are a fire hazard.
• If you have a water well and pump, keep a supply of bottled water, and fill your bathtub up with fresh water.
• Keep a supply of nonperishable foods that do not have to be cooked.
• Keep a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, and listen to a local station for information on the storm.
• Make sure there is a hard-wired telephone or a charged cell phone nearby. Mobile phones can be charged in your vehicle, and smart phones can provide access to online information.
• If the power is out, call Potomac Edison and report it at 1-888-544-4877.
• If you see a downed wire, immediately report it to the local utility company or local police or fire department.
• Do not go near a downed power line, even if it looks like it is not carrying electricity, and do not try to remove trees or tree limbs from them. Make sure children and pets stay away from them.
• When operating a generator, make sure the power coming into the home is always disconnected, or the power from the generator could be sent back to the utility lines, creating a hazardous situation for utility workers.
Here is a list of tips from a page on the Maryland State Highway Administration’s website at if you need to drive in the snow.
• Allow extra time to get to where you are going.
• Keep in mind that four-wheel drive vehicles are just as vulnerable to slipping on ice as regular two-wheel drive vehicles.
• If your car begins to skid, take your foot off the gas pedal and immediately steer in the direction of the skid. Do not panic or slam on the brakes.
• Increase the distance between your vehicle and others on the road.
• Do not try to pass snow plows or salt trucks on the road.
• If your vehicle breaks down, move it as far off the roadway as possible, lift the hood, and try to leave a signal, such as a scarf, hanging from the window. Wait for help inside your vehicle.
• When shoveling snow from your driveway, create a pile away from the roadway.
• Before getting in the car, pack a “survival kit” that includes a shovel, blanket, water, jumper cables, flares, snacks and a flashlight.
• Check the tires, gas tank, antifreeze, oil, battery, defroster, heater, wipers, and washer fluid level in your vehicle.
• Make sure to remove all ice and snow from your vehicle.