Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — Although Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday following heavy snowfall there, Western Maryland and the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia weathered the storm without significant incident, according to emergency response officials.
As of mid-afternoon, there were no weather-related accidents in either Allegany or Garrett counties requiring medical transports for treatment.
“We had a couple vehicles in ditches along U.S. 220 South, but that was it,” said a dispatcher at the Allegany County 911 Center.
It was equally calm in Garrett County, according to John Frank, the recently named emergency management director there.
“(Maryland Emergency Management Agency) sent someone here before the storm arrived to assist me while I am in the mentoring stage,” Frank said. “We also had offers of help from Allegany and Washington counties.”
The snow emergency plan was lifted at 1 p.m. in Garrett County, state police reported.
The only public school system open within the circulation area of the Times-News was in Pendleton County, W.Va., where there was a two-hour delay.
Pendleton County, though, as well as Hardy County, had the greatest number of power outages Wednesday afternoon, with 3,625 and 1,986 respectively. Each of those was being whittled as the afternoon wore on.
“Those areas are remote and more difficult for our crews to reach, so repair takes longer,” said Todd Meyers of First Energy.
The center of outages in Maryland was in Allegany County, according to Meyers, but that number was nearly down to zero at 4 p.m.
Outages in other counties at that hour included 188 in Mineral, 298 in Hampshire and 199 in Grant.
“All of the outages were tree related,” Meyers said, referring to blowdowns and deadfalls that compromised electric lines.
In preparation for the storm, First Energy moved West Virginia crews stationed west of Interstate 79 into the eastern mountain counties.
“We also brought more than 50 linemen here from Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and Toledo Edison,” Meyers said. “One-third stayed in Cumberland Tuesday night and the remainder were shuttled to Hagerstown.”
Also, 100 hazard responders were activated.
“Those are the people who go to downed lines and keep the public away until linemen can determine the level of the problem and deal with it,” Meyers said.
Snowfall totals varied substantially based upon elevation, ranging in Allegany County from 12.5 inches in Frostburg to 4.5 inches in LaVale, according to a midday report by the National Weather Service.
The entire court system and courthouse in Allegany County closed, but in Garrett County only district court was listed on the Judiciary Information Line as being shut down.
The Maryland State Highway Administration put more than 2,000 crews out to plow and treat.
No impacts at state parks were reported in far Western Maryland, though Gambrill State Park in Frederick County was without power and Cunningham Falls State Park was closed.
In addition, Washington Monument State Park closed because more snow was falling than could be removed, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Weather watchers and emergency officials were anticipating an increase in wind velocity later Wednesday.
“It might gust at 35 mph and we might get another four inches of snow, but we are just in the monitoring phase now,” said Garrett County’s Frank.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at email@example.com.