Cumberland Times-News

March 5, 2013

Snowstorm could be biggest of season; power outages feared

Jeffrey Alderton
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Preparations continued unabated Tuesday as a winter storm that could dump more than a foot of snow closed in on the region and surrounding states.

A winter storm warning posted by the National Weather Service from 6 p.m. Tuesday to midnight Wednesday predicted a heavy wet snow, followed by winds gusting up to 35 miles per hour. Power outages were anticipated throughout the tri-state area and residents were urged to prepare accordingly.

“This is probably the biggest threat we have seen all season long and it could be more than the 8 inches of snow we got the day after Christmas,” said local NWS observer Tim Thomas. “We can expect 10 to 15 inches of snow in Cumberland.”

On Tuesday afternoon, City Administrator Jeff Rhodes said, “The Public Works Department is at full strength and six plow trucks are currently scheduled for tonight. We have an additional three ready to go if needed.”

The Cumberland Fire Department was ready with its newest ambulance, a four-wheel drive vehicle. Other ambulances were equipped with drop chains and two engines were being equipped with chains.

The Cumberland Police Department was fully staffed and requiring all four-wheel drive vehicles to be available to its personnel by early Tuesday evening. Two school resource officers were being assigned to patrol duties Wednesday. All personnel assigned to the C3I Unit were directed to report to work in uniform to be prepared for patrol, Rhodes said.

In Garrett County, road crews were busy Tuesday morning pushing back snow at various locations, including on Beall School Road at Finzel as part of storm readiness.

Throughout the day, State Highway Administration personnel pretreated Interstate 68 in Allegany and Garrett counties and other roadways throughout the state with salt brine, a solution of 77 percent water and 23 percent salt. A film of salt is created on the roadway to prevent the initial bond of snow or ice.  

While some road crews were busy making preparations, others stored energy to battle the approaching winter blast.

“Crews are resting up to prepare for a long evening through Wednesday and into Thursday,” said an SHA spokesman.

The SHA also noted areas are designated “for truckers to ride out a storm.” Emergency truck parking, as well as instructions for downloading a mobile application for a smartphone, are available at http://roads.maryland.gov/pages/emergencytruckparking.aspx?pageid=856.

Locally, truckers were offered to wait out the storm in the Finzel scale house parking lot on eastbound I-68.

The SHA urged motorists to stay off the highways as much as possible.

“We urge motorists to avoid travel to enable SHA to effectively clear roads. Should motorists have to venture out, they should first log on to www.md511.org for the latest conditions, then drive with plenty of extra time. Never pass a snowplow or plow train,” said the state official.

Law enforcement also braced for the storm, including the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, which planned to use more manpower than usual Wednesday.

The National Weather Service forecast precipitation to begin as rain before changing to snow and rain and then snow that is expected to continue before tapering off Wednesday evening.

“The heavy wet snow could cause some issues,” said Thomas.

Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at jlalderton@times-news.com.