Cumberland Times-News

November 5, 2012

Garrett recovery will take months

Normalcy slowly returning to storm-ravaged county

Jeffrey Alderton
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND — Power was being restored, roads were being reopened and most schools were back in session Monday in Garrett County but storm recovery efforts were continuing.

“As far as operating at normal, I think we are there now. But recovery will continue for months into the spring. Right now we have to get the snow moved back on our roads to get ready for the next storm whenever that is,” said Garrett County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt.

The county’s emergency operations center was being manned by all county personnel Monday after Federal Emergency Management Agency officials left the county along with numerous state personnel who had been working round-the clock to assist the county in its storm response.

Up to 30 inches of snow slammed the county Oct. 29 when Hurricane Sandy and a cold-weather system from the north combined for a prewinter monster storm that downed power lines and trees in every section of the county. Schools were shut down along with county and state offices all week.

At one point, snow was reportedly falling in the county at the rate of 3 1/2 inches per hour, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration. The snow was unusually heavy and instantly downed electrical lines and trees throughout the region.

Dozens of Potomac Edison and allied utility crews were sent into the county to restore the widespread outages. About 3,200 residents remained without electricity late Monday and less than 30 customers in Allegany County.

Resources from throughout the state were used in the storm recovery along with National Guard troops. The snow emergency plan remained in effect throughout the week although the snow plan for Interstate 68 in the county was lifted at mid-week.

An estimated 95 percent of county roads were passable by late Saturday, according to Garrett County Sheriff Rob Corley.

On Monday, State Highway Administration personnel from Keysers Ridge worked to remove debris from roadways and push back snow as weather forecasters eyed a nor’easter system that could deliver more precipitation to Western Maryland later in the week.

“Our SHA personnel in Garrett County are now going back and doing specific cleanup, removing wood and debris and making sure drains are clear,” said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar. Sixty SHA personnel from Howard, Frederick and Washington counties were dispatched to Garrett County last week to help with the storm recovery but those crews returned to their home counties during the weekend.

Pagenhardt said the county was given special permission by the Department of Natural Resources for chipping of downed trees and limbs and shooting the chips into the woods. “We were granted special consideration and it will save us a lot of money,” he said.

The county also plans to announce locations where storm debris and downed trees and limbs can be disposed at no charge to county residents.

A checklist is being compiled for county residents that would provide question-and-answer information for various storm-related issues.

Pagenhardt said the county is working to track storm costs, update latest roads-related information and provide planning and permitting services to deal with storm-related issues for county residents.

The county administrator commended the various entities that assisted the county in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “We also received a lot of compliments from agencies and people that came in who were impressed with the way the county has responded to this emergency,” said Pagenhardt.

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.