Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Allegany County roads crews, their own supplies depleted, prepared Wednesday to battle a snowstorm by spreading 200 tons of salt obtained from the Maryland State Highway Administration.
“We had a stockpile of salt two weeks ago or so, but we depleted our reserve,” said road chief Paul Goldsworthy on Wednesday morning. Meteorologists were predicting snow to begin falling late Wednesday and continue until Thursday evening.
Narrow bands of snow with varying amounts of precipitation appear to be making predictions dicey with the possibility of a few inches to more than a foot of snow in the Cumberland area.
“We’re fine for this storm,” said Dave Buck of SHA. “A high-end blizzard requires 70,000 to 80,000 tons of salt and we still have 250,000 tons on hand.”
Precipitation in the form of snow means more plowing than salting, according to Buck.
“We’re fine in the western part of the state,” Buck said. “The further west you go in Maryland the more people are used to dealing with storms.”
Allegany County has 25 plow trucks, each with a predetermined route.
“We’ll bring crews in Wednesday afternoon to load some of the trucks and get them ready,” Goldsworthy said. “We aren’t planning to send the trucks out until 5 a.m. Thursday.”
Roads with high traffic flows are usually at the top of the list, according to Goldsworthy. They include Cash Valley near LaVale, Town Creek and Bear Hill roads in the eastern portion of the county and Cherry Lane at Frostburg.
“We’ve used a whole lot more salt than last year, but we’ve had winters like this a lot of times,” Goldsworthy said.
Seven hundred tons of salt are on order for the county, which adds a limestone mix before spreading. Goldsworthy said about the same amount of salt is applied whether a storm drops a couple of inches of snow or a foot.
Most of the trucks are housed at Kelly Road in Cumberland. There are satellite centers at Oldtown, M.V. Smith Road and Old Legislative Road.
The city of Cumberland has slightly more than 100 tons of salt on hand, City Administrator Jeff Rhodes announced at Tuesday’s council meeting. “That sounds like a lot but that is essentially an average snowfall. We will use in excess of 100 tons in a snowfall of 4 or 5 inches,” he said.
“We are on the edge. We are checking everywhere we can to see if we can’t obtain more salt. We had 300 tons on order for a month now. We have never gotten a full delivery of it. ... The big problem is the Three Rivers area (Pittsburgh) because the salt shipments are barged in because the rivers are frozen.”
In Frostburg, the salt dome was replenished just Wednesday morning, according to City Administrator John Kirby.
“Our street department was out all night clearing snow from sidewalks in the business district,” Kirby said Wednesday morning. “They are all home now and we don’t plan to put them back on the streets until regular shift starts at 7 a.m. Thursday.”
Kirby pointed out that Frostburg police officers will monitor the snowfall Wednesday night and early Thursday and alert street department officials if action is needed.
“We also have a contingency crew from the parks and recreation department if needed,” Kirby said.
The money spent on salt at the same point a year ago is similar to this winter, a little more than $80,000, according to Kirby.
Garrett County roads crews use little salt, according to County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt. “We use a salt mixture on New Germany, Glendale and Chestnut Ridge roads. We’ve been cutting back trees along those roads to get more sunlight on them and that has helped as well. We primarily use abrasives. We have good supplies of both.”
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Times-News staff writer Greg Larry contributed to this story.