Veterans Day Observed At County Memorial

Photo by Shawn Soper

backdrop of an overcast November morning highlighted by autumn foliage in all its glory, a brief but somber ceremony was held to commemorate Veterans Day at the Worcester County Veteran’s Memorial in Ocean Pines on Tuesday.

Originally called Armistice Day following World War I to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year when the terms of surrender were reached with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918, the solemn holiday has been known as Veterans Day since 1954. Unlike Memorial Day, which honors the service men and women who died in the service of their country, Veterans Day honors all service men and women from all of the nation’s conflicts and at peacetime.

Appropriately, Veterans Day was recognized at the Worcester County Veterans Memorial in Ocean Pines for the 11th time on Tuesday. The event included solemn speeches, patriotic songs, the laying of a wreath, a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps at the close. Veterans Day Committee member Arlene Page emceed the event and explained while the ceremony was intended to honor the service men and women from all of the nation’s wars and at peacetime, special attention was given this year to the veterans of the Iraq war. American Legion Chaplain Bernie Michels provided the invocation.

The Stephen Decatur NJROTC presented the colors near the start of the event and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Commander Timaree Sparks of the Ocean City Coast Guard Station. The National Anthem was led by the Delmarva Chorus, which later sang the anthems of each branch of service. Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James Williams provided an address recognizing the many soldiers from Maryland who had earned the Medal of Honor over the years, including heroic stories of many of them giving their last measure of devotion.

One of the more poignant parts of the ceremony recognized the many POWs and MIAs. A simple table adorned with a stark white table cloth and a place-setting for one sat near the Veterans Memorial and one by one members of the American Legion including many from American Legion Post 166 in Ocean City added an important element each with a particular meaning.

American Legion Post 166 Commander Sarge Garlitz narrated the proceedings and explained the significance of each step in the process. For example, the small table represented the frailty of prisoners, and the white table cloth represented the purity of thoughts. A single red rose was placed on the table as a reminder of the blood they might have shed, and a slice of lemon symbolized their bitter fate.

Salt was shaken on the table to represent the tears of waiting families. A glass turned upside down was a reminder of their absence and an empty chair was placed at the table, also representing their absence. Finally, a lighted candle was placed at the table symbolizing hope, and American flag was placed as a reminder that many may never return.

Following the empty table ceremony, officers from Coast Guard Station Ocean City placed a wreath at the base of the American flag in the center of the Veterans Memorial. Following some brief closing remarks and a benediction by Page, members of the American Legion Synepuxent Post 166 fired a rifle volley that created another of the more memorable elements of the ceremony. As the rifle shots echoed across the Veterans Memorial plaza, hundreds of startled birds who had been peacefully bobbing on the pond suddenly took flight. Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Erwin closed the ceremony with Taps played from his bugle as the hundreds who had gathered solemnly walked away.


Witnesses Recount Night’s Events Leading Up To Reported Homicide

A screenshot of the Plim Plaza Hotel's surveillance video shows emergency responders tending to Justin Cancelliere.

OCEAN CITY — Witness statements in the manslaughter case against two men appear to raise more questions this week on what specifically caused the death of a Pennsylvania man in Ocean City.

Around 3 a.m. on Aug. 24, Ocean City Police and Emergency Services responded to 2nd Street for a reported assault that had already occurred. Upon arrival, officers found the victim, later identified as Justin D. Cancelliere, 37, of North Whitehall, Pa., unconscious and unresponsive. He later died. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the nature of Cancelliere’s injuries as head and neck trauma and the cause of death a homicide.

After an investigation, OCPD detectives determined the assault occurred during an altercation in the area of Talbot Street and Baltimore Ave. Two suspects, identified as Caleb Edwin-Earl Ochse, 27, of Ocean City, and Christopher Blake Kendall, 22, of Ocean City, have been charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, affray, disorderly conduct and alcoholic beverage-did endanger for their alleged roles in the confrontation.

Surveillance videos obtained by The Dispatch show what appears to be an initial contact between the defendants and the victim and his party, including a cousin and three other friends, at Fat Daddy’s restaurant and ends with Cancelliere and his group following Ochse and Kendall out of the restaurant. A second surveillance video shows the victim apparently still unconscious being removed from a taxi at the hotel parking lot on 2nd Street and OCPD officers and paramedics arriving on the scene and treating Cancelliere before taking him to AGH where he was ultimately pronounced deceased.

While the two videos paint a bookend picture of what happened on either end of the fatal confrontation, what occurred in between has been largely vague. However, official testimony provided to detectives from the victim’s cousin and friends, the taxi driver and others in and around the scene made public by the Ochse family have started to fill in some of the gaps in the incident’s timeline.

The victim’s cousin, Scott Cancelliere, and his two other friends, Kyle Lockwitch and Brian Colon, each describe a day of drinking in the resort culminating with an early morning food stop at Fat Daddy’s. The witnesses told police about the events leading up to the confrontation, but neither of them reported seeing firsthand the actual fight.

“We went up the sidewalk on the left of the road to the bayside of the street,” Scott Cancelliere told police in his statement. “We had passed the other group that previously left Fat Daddy’s. As we passed, words were exchanged. I am unsure of who or what was said. I continued walking up the street and a scuffle broke out behind me and on the other side of the street at the intersection. The scuffle was going on, and I went across the street to break it up and continue on our way.”

Scott Cancelliere said when he retreated back to the area of the scuffle, his cousin, Justin Cancelliere, was already in the street.

“When I got across the street, there was two or maybe three people in a pile,” he said. “We rolled him over and pulled him toward the sidewalk. We tried to wake him up, figured he had been knocked unconscious. He didn’t get up, so someone hailed a cab. We loaded Justin in and [name redacted] into the cab. I walked back to the hotel. When we arrived, [name redacted] was on the ground holding Justin up. It was shortly after that someone got [name redacted] up and he came down as well. When [name redacted] was there, we all decided it was time to call 911. We did so and an ambulance and police arrived minutes later.”

Lockwitch also described a day of drinking that ended with the late night stop at the restaurant. While he didn’t describe the defendants, Lockwitch said at least one of them was causing a disturbance in the restaurant. Again, Lockwitch did not witness the later altercation and was uncertain how the victim ended up in the street.

“One guy was very drunk and loud, getting up and making everyone including the owner mad and upset,” he said. “The owner and manager told him to leave and we left right after them. They were loud and drunk on the street and said something to Justin. Justin took off after them both, we [Kyle, Scott and Brian] ran after him. By the time we caught him about a half block down the road, he was on the street. We don’t know if he was hit or he fell.”

Lockwitch described arriving at the scene after the altercation and what occurred next.

“We all ran up and he was making a gurgling sound,” he said. “We called a cab to get him out of the street. We put him in a cab. I stayed with him in the cab. We got to the hotel and pulled him out of the cab and I sat with him in the parking lot. Nate told people to call 911. They showed up five minutes later.”


‘Drinking All Day, Not In The Best Shape’

For his part, Colon provided police with a rather disjointed version of what happened, but again told detectives he did not witness the altercation.

“We left, commotion in the street, found friend on the ground,” he said. “Went back to the hotel, some walked, some took a cab I think. Got to the hotel, called 911 because he wasn’t responsive. Again, drinking all day, not in the best shape.”

When asked if he saw a fight, Lockwitch replied, “No, I was behind the group.”

When asked to describe the commotion, Lockwith told detectives, “people getting in cabs, younger people crossing streets, guys calling out at girls, going home for the night, laughing, seemed like a mix, leaving bars.”

Another witness, a foreign student living in downtown Ocean City for the summer, described for detectives the incident in the street as he recalled it from watching from a nearby balcony. The witness described what is likely a nightly occurrence in the early morning hours in downtown Ocean City in the summer with intoxicated people walking around and yelling to other people on balconies or to no one in particular with nothing typically coming of it.

“I thought this was something similar and keep looking at them and they start throwing punches at each other but they couldn’t hit each other at first because they were too drunk,” the witness told police. “Then they separate them, the other guys and girls separate them, and they walked down the street. They start fighting again and the one guy gets knocked down and two or three guys start hitting him while he was on the floor and he was beaten down at the floor. He was get unconscious after the first punch I think because he couldn’t cover himself while he was on the ground. I mean, he just fell down like he was dead or passed out.”

When the interviewer asked the witness why he thought that, the witness replied, “because if he was still awake, he’d try to cover himself or try to wake up, but he didn’t do anything.”


‘I Just See The Guys Hitting Him…’

When asked what happened from that point, the witness told police, “they were hitting him while he was on the floor, like three or four times maybe, maybe more. I didn’t see it because three of them were just in front of me. I just see the guys hitting him, but I’m not sure how many times they hit.”

It’s important to note this witness watched from his residence and admitted his view was often blocked by others who had gathered in the area. For example, when asked how many men were hitting the victim, the witness said two or three. When asked to describe the assailants, the witness could not describe them, only stating he believed they were white and they looked like Americans.

In addition, when asked to recall if anyone tried to break up the fight, the witness told police, “I can’t remember it now because I was looking at it from my window and it was dark, so I don’t know who else tried to separate them or they just start beating them after. I don’t know. I’m not sure.”

However, the witness did tell police he wasn’t certain, but thought the victim was rendered unconscious from a punch.

“One guy throw a punch, his face, I think, I guess, and I don’t know if he was too drunk and fell like that or unconscious, or is he really unconscious, but I think he’s unconscious because if he was awake, he would try to cover himself or try to get up or try to punch them. He couldn’t do anything.”

Testimony from the taxi driver who picked up the victim and at least one of the friends and an unknown female lends little information about the actual altercation, but confirms much of what happened after it.

“I saw people on the side,” he said. “I pulled to the side. The girl came over and asked for a ride. I agreed. The guys helped the unconscious guy. Two guys, I think, helped him to the taxi. One guy got in with the unconscious guy. I took him to the Plim Plaza and dropped him. The guy took him out. Two of his friends came to the Plim Plaza. They paid me $100 for messing up the car and the ride. I left with one guy and the girl. I took the guy to 118th Street to Pizza Tugos and the girl to Old Bridge Road. When they grabbed him to put him in the taxi, the blood from his nose contacted the back seat of the car.”

Ochse’s parents have been vocal about the case and how they feel their son is being wrongly charged. So much so they have set up a website that provides links to witness statements as well as photos and videos.

The Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office has been decidedly mum on the incident and has said it is ethically and professionally bound from making statements or providing evidence during an active case.

Meanwhile, the cases against Ochse and Kendall are moving through the discovery phase and the State’s Attorney’s Office has provided much of its evidence to the defense teams. The trials for both defendants are tentatively set in for Jan. 7.




UPDATE: Self Defense Alleged In OC’s Weekend Fatality; State’s Increased Bail Request Denied

SNOW HILL — Less than 24 hours after the arrest of two local men for their alleged role in the death of a Pennsylvania man found unconscious in a downtown hotel parking lot early Sunday morning, one of the suspects had his bond set at $400,000 during a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, and the groundwork for a self-defense approach has already been laid out.

Around 3 a.m. on Sunday, Ocean City police officers responded to the parking lot of a hotel on 2nd Street to assist Ocean City EMS with an assault that had already occurred. Upon arrival, OCPD officers found the victim, later identified as Justin D. Cancelliere, 37, of North Whitehall, Pa., unconscious and unresponsive. First responders from the OCPD and the Ocean City Fire Department initiated emergency lifesaving procedures on the victim and transported him to AGH where he was later pronounced deceased. An autopsy was performed on Monday, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore has ruled the nature of Cancelliere’s injuries as head and neck trauma and the cause of death a homicide.

After an investigation, OCPD detectives determined the assault occurred during an altercation in the area of Talbot Street and Baltimore Ave. The two suspects, identified as Caleb Edwin-Earl Ochse, 27, of Ocean City, and Christopher Blake Kendall, 22, of Ocean City, had entered the Fat Daddy’s restaurant around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday and ordered food.

Cancelliere entered the restaurant a short time later, followed by three other men including his cousin. During the two groups’ time in the restaurant, Cancelliere allegedy stared at Ocshe and Kendall, who did not know the victim and his group. Ochse and Kendall then left the restaurant and Cancelliere and his group followed closely behind. About a block away, a physical altercation occurred between the two suspects and Cancelliere and his group, all of whom were allegedly significantly larger in stature than the suspects.

According to police reports, the physical altercation turned violent with Cancelliere on the ground and the two suspects beating him. What has not been made public, however, is how the two smaller suspects were able to inflict significant injuries on the larger man who was with three other men.

After the physical confrontation, Cancilliere’s cousin and friends were able to get him into a taxi, which took them to the Plim Plaza Hotel a few blocks away where they were staying. Inexplicably, the group did not call 911 until getting back to the hotel parking lot. In fact, it is not certain if Cancilliere’s group called 911 or if the call for Emergency Services came from an unattached third party or witness.

There are unconfirmed reports that EMS was called first and then first responders called the OCPD. Ocean City Police and EMS arrived on the scene and after initiating emergency lifesaving measures transported Cancelliere to AGH where he was pronounced dead shortly before 7 a.m.

On Tuesday, Ocean City police arrested Ochse and Kendall, charging them with manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and affray. Ochse was arrested at the West Ocean City seafood restaurant where he works, while Kendall turned himself in at the Public Safety Building a few hours later. Both had hearings before a District Court Commissioner late Tuesday. Ochse had his initial bond set at $400,000, while Kendall was released on his own recognizance.

Ochse had a formal bond review hearing in District Court in Snow Hill on Wednesday in front of Judge Gerald Purnell. His attorney, Frank Benvenuto, argued for a reduction in the bond, citing his client’s local roots and family history in the resort area.

“We’re going to ask for the bond to be lowered,” he said. “He’s 27 years old, a Stephen Decatur graduate, and a resident of Worcester County. His grandfather owns the Kite Loft and his father owns Atlantic Bikes. He is not a flight risk because he has high ties to the community.”

However, Purnell admonished Benvenuto somewhat for only pointing out flight risk out of a list of at least eight factors in determining a bond amount.

“Out of eight things, you only cited on thing,” he said. “There is more to a bond review than flight risk. A lot of this has to do with the nature of the crime. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

Worcester County Executive Assistant State’s Attorney William McDermott represented the state at Ochse’s bond review hearing on Wednesday, just as he did for the preliminary hearing with the District Court Commissioner on Tuesday night when the bond was initially set at $400,000. McDermott said some overnight research into Ochse’s past revealed reasons for not reducing the bond amount but instead increasing it.

“I was at the District Court Commissioner hearing last night and new information has come to light since,” he said. “The state is asking for an increase in the bond.”

McDermott aired a laundry list of Ochse’s arrest record, including multiple assault and disorderly conduct arrests. He pointed to a 2012 disorderly conduct arrest during which Ochse got into a fight with out-of-towners in Ocean City and another particular incident during which the defendant came upon an OCPD officer affecting a DUI arrest and threw a concrete brick through the officer’s patrol car window. In another incident when Ochse was a juvenile, he stole a hat from a woman’s head on the Boardwalk and when she attempted to get it back, he allegedly punched her in the face.

Most recently, in February, he was arrested in Orlando, Fla. when he was discovered attempting to board a Greyhound bus with 60 grams of methamphetamines, or “bath salts,” on his person. According to Orlando police, Ochse had been visiting a friend in Miami and planned to take the bus from South Florida to Panama City Beach.

While McDermott pointed out Ochse’s various adult arrests and convictions, he also said the defendant had an extensive record with the Department of Juvenile Services.

“His juvenile record looks more like a yearbook because there are so many mug shots in there,” he said. “It’s true he has strong ties to the community, but most of those ties have been with law enforcement.”

It’s important to note the victim has his own prior criminal history dating back several years, although the nature of the charges and the outcomes of the cases are not fully known at this time.

McDermott said despite Ochse’s prior record, flight risk alone could be considered as a determining factor in setting the bond. He pointed to the February arrest in Florida, for which Ochse may or may not have a warrant, and an earlier case in District Court during which Ochse sent a letter to the court with a P.O. Box in Puerto Rico as the return address.

“The OCPD knows him on sight because of his past run-ins with them,” he said. “He beat a man on the ground unconscious and that man is now no longer with us because of his actions. For that reason, I’m asking the bond to be increased from $400,000 to $1 million.”

Benvenuto said video surveillance captured from Fat Daddy’s clearly shows the victim and three others including his cousin as the aggressors in the altercation. He again pointed to Ochse’s ties to the community as a reason for lowering the bond.

“Four gentlemen went out of Fat Daddy’s and confronted him,” he said. “The video shows that.”

For his part, Purnell acknowledged Ochse’s family history in the area, but was not inclined to reduce the bond, nor raise it as the state requested.

“I’m very familiar with Caleb since I had him in drug court,” he said. “I have known his family for years and it’s an outstanding family. I’m not going to go along with the state and increase the bond, but I am going to set it at $400,000.

While the state relied heavily on Ochse’s prior record during the bond hearing, it remains to be seen how much of his criminal history will be able to be used during the eventual trial. Generally speaking, prior arrests and convictions are not admissible in court proceedings unless there is a nexus between the past crimes and the case at hand. For example, if a particular feature in a prior case was apparent in a current case, that might be admissible. An attorney familiar with this case has said “that those types of charges will not be evidence at any trial.”

Meanwhile, the Ochse family, through their attorneys, on Wednesday issued a statement expressing their sympathies to the victim’s family while outlining one version of the facts of the case, supported by video surveillance tape captured at Fat Daddy’s.

“As lifelong residents and business owners in Worcester County, the family of Caleb Ochse would like to thank the community for their support,” the statement reads. “We also extend our sympathy to the family of Justin Cancelliere.”

The statement suggests there might be a rush to judgment and lays the groundwork for a likely defense strategy based on self-defense.

“We are disappointed that the State’s Attorney has arrested Caleb before a complete investigation,” the statement reads. “Our family attorney has been in contact with the police and the State’s Attorney since Sunday morning. The State’s Attorney is aware that a video camera at Fat Daddy’s captured important evidence of Caleb’s innocence.”

According to the Ochse family statement, the video shows Ochse and his friend, Kendall, eating at the restaurant after 2:30 a.m. Cancelliere then enters Fat Daddy’s alone. For some unknown reason, Cancelliere looks at Ochse and his friend intently. Three men then entered Fat Daddy’s and joined Cancelliere. According to the statement, the four men order food and sit in a booth with Cancelliere sitting awkwardly on the corner of the both so he can continue to stare at Ochse and Kendall, all the while gesturing to his friends. According to the statement, the four men waited for Ochse and Kendall to leave and followed them.

“The last frames of the video show Caleb and his friend walking north with the four men close behind,” the statement reads. “One of the men, who identified himself to police as a cousin of Mr. Cancelliere, told police that they followed Caleb and his friend and got into a fight a block away from Fat Daddy’s on Talbot Street. The cousin reported to police that after the fight, he saw Mr. Cancelliere on the ground. The cousin put him in a cab to take him to Plim Plaza where they were staying, without calling the police or ambulance. Police report that Mr. Cancelliere was found with injuries to his face and head including a bloody nose and a bruise on his forehead.”

The statement goes on to say Ochse and his friend left the scene and walked home, “also without contacting police or ambulance with no knowledge that anyone was hurt.”

The Ochse family statement essentially says the surveillance video will paint a picture of the true account of the incident and show the victim and his associates as the aggressors.

“We sincerely hope that the State’s Attorney’s Office will carefully review all of the evidence as we believe Caleb and his friend clearly acted in self-defense,” the statement reads.


Midshipman Dies After Skateboarding Accident on Assateague

It was a tough month for the U.S. Naval Academy as two midshipmen have passed away over the last month, including Hans Loewen, 20, who died after being gravely injured on Assateague Island.

ASSATEAGUE — A Naval Academy midshipman severely injured in a skateboarding accident at Assateague State Park back on March 22 passed away while in a coma at the University of Maryland Medical Center Shock Trauma on Saturday.

Midshipman Third Class Hans Loewen, 20, of Hampstead, N.C., passed away on Saturday at Shock Trauma six days after he sustained injuries in a skateboarding accident while on liberty away from the academy on March 22. Loewen was camping at Assateague State Park with other midshipmen when he sustained the injuries while skateboarding. After initial treatment on the scene by local emergency personnel, Loewen was transported to Shock Trauma in Baltimore.

A York, Pa. man who was camping at the Assateague Island National Seashore that weekend said he observed three young men taking turns being pulled on a skateboard behind a jeep that Saturday evening. He said he didn’t think much of it at the time because it just appeared to be three young men horsing around and not harming themselves or others.

He did say a small crowd had gathered to watch the display, but he left around dusk, or about 8 p.m., and didn’t learn of the tragic accident until the next day. When he and his wife drove out of the national park, the road where the young men had been horsing around was blocked off as crews cleared the roadway. He said he thought at the time one of the famed horses or perhaps one of the hundreds of sika deer he had seen in the same area the day before had been hit by a vehicle, but learned the real story later that day.

In the days following the accident, Loewen’s family remained at his bedside and was supported by friends, midshipmen and Naval Academy leadership.

“My wife Barbara and I join the Brigade, staff and faculty in mourning the loss of Midshipman Hans Loewen,” said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller in a statement. “Hans was a vibrant midshipman who loved his life to the fullest and that spirit will forever be imprinted in his classmates and the Naval Academy. As we celebrate Hans’ courage and commitment, we also come together in support for his family and friends, and all who were touched by his presence. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the Loewens and our extended USNA family during this very difficult time.”

Loewen, a sophomore, was an oceanography major in the 7th Company at the Academy and his extracurricular activities included the Adventure Racing Team, the American Nuclear Society and the Rock Climbing Club. According to his family’s Caring Bridge memorial page, Loewen was a calculated risk taker, attacking his many passions with intensity and preparation including kite surfing, rock climbing, downhill longboarding, surfing, paddle boarding, mountain climbing, mountain biking and several others.

“He researches each of his passions and when he engages in it, he does it with calculated intensity,” the memorial page reads. “On Saturday, March 22, Hans miscalculated a bit as he was engaging in one of his many extreme sports and suffered a devastating brain injury, despite wearing a helmet, after skateboarding beside a slowly moving vehicle and falling beneath its rear wheel.”

The Naval Academy will continue to support Loewen’s family, friends and loved ones during this time of grief. Grief counseling services and support are available to midshipmen, faculty and staff through chains of command, chaplains and the Midshipmen Development Center.

Loewen was the second USNA midshipman to pass away in the span of less than a week. Midshipman Will McKamey, 19, of Knoxville, Tenn., died while in a coma at Shock Trauma on March 26 three days after collapsing during a Navy spring football practice. The freshman running back collapsed on the field and was airlifted to Shock Trauma in Baltimore where he passed three days later.



‘George Feehley Has Surfed His Way Into The History Of Ocean City And Will Always Be Remembered’

George Feehley, who passed away last weekend at the age of 87, is pictured tandem surfing. Photo by Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum

OCEAN CITY — The sun set on the “endless summer” for a local legend last weekend with the passage of a former Ocean City elected official, lifeguard and surfing icon.

George Feehley, 87, passed away last Saturday at the Coastal Hospice at the Lake in Salisbury, but his legendary exploits and indomitable spirit live on. Feehley served on the Ocean City Council for 12 years including two as council president from 1994 to 1996 and was instrumental in a period of growth in the resort. Already a Baltimore high school sports legend, Feehley arrived in Ocean City for good in the mid-1940s and quickly became a fixture on the north end of the beach at the outskirts of the resort, the corporate limits of which only extended to about 40th Street or so.

Feehley officially joined the Ocean City Beach Patrol in 1946, but was already patrolling the north end of the town before that. Shortly thereafter, residents in the area north of Ocean City, which was just a part of unincorporated Worcester County at the time, asked Feehley to be the lifeguard at the beach and he agreed on the condition he could also run the beach umbrella and chair concession.

While his athletic exploits were his claim to fame, many local residents remember Feehley for his time in public service. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan memorialized Feehley during the council work session on Tuesday.

“George served this community for a number of years, as a councilman for 12 years, and was elected and served as council president from 1994 to 1996,” he said. “George was very active in the community and moved here a long time ago. He was very active in supporting the Ocean City Beach Patrol and actually guarded a portion of the beach in the area of 40th Street on his own for a period of time.”

Meehan said Feehley was instrumental in forwarding a lot of the programs and services the town of Ocean City offers today.

“He was also very active in the 1980s in helping establish the Senior Center in Ocean City and its programs for the seniors,” he said. “He was a successful realtor and successful in other adventures he had tried, as well as a good promoter of Ocean City and supporter of businesses in Ocean City. It is very unfortunate and George will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family and all who knew George. We want to thank him for his service to the town of Ocean City.”

While Feehley was an active member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol and a pillar in the resort’s surfing community for years, he spent his winters as a gym teacher in the local school system, most notably at Buckingham Elementary in Berlin.

“Mr. Feehley had a career as a teacher, in fact, he taught my husband back in grade school, so I know he’ll be missed,” said Ocean City Councilwoman Margaret Pillas on Tuesday. “That is what he spent his whole life doing, even on the council, trying to teach citizens, athletes and even surfers. He will be missed. I will miss him.”

While his accomplishments on the City Council were noteworthy in many respects, Feehley is remembered in many circles for his tireless work on behalf of the Beach Patrol and his athletic prowess in numerous regional, national and international lifeguard competitions even late into his life.

“George got involved with the modern Beach Patrol because of his desire to use his athletic abilities in a competitive environment,” said Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin. “I did not know him back when he guarded a beach just north of the town limits, but met him when he joined the Beach Patrol’s chapter of the USLA.”

Arbin said Feehley’s rigorous training regimen provided inspiration to the beach patrol’s much younger members.

“Seeing someone George’s age continue to train and compete was really a motivator and inspired our younger members to try even harder,” he said. “We could always count on George to contribute a large number of team points to our chapter in the National USLA championships and improve our overall team standing.”

While serving on the council, Feehley became a strong advocate for the Beach Patrol, according to Arbin, and helped forge the modern day organization.

“For many years, while George served on the City Council, the beach patrol had a special friend in high places and his influence allowed our team members to compete in major competitive events with the financial support of the town,” he said. “George Feehley has surfed his way into the history of Ocean City and will always be remembered.”

While Feehley was already guarding the north end beach in the late 1940s, it wasn’t until the early 1960s when he took up the latest craze to hit the resort. Ocean City surfing legend Skill Johnson and his brothers Al and Carl are largely credited with introducing surfing to the resort in the 1960s. Johnson, who now resides in Hawaii, said this week Feehley quickly picked up the sport and became a surfing legend in his own right.

“In 1964, the first surf shop in town was at 18th Street, but we always went up to 43rd Street, which was at the end of town limits, to surf and George had a house up there and used to guard the beach,” he said. “He saw us surfing out there and took it up and became a natural from the start. He was an athlete beyond belief.”

Johnson said he and the others in the nascent resort surfing community always marveled at Feehley’s athletic prowess.

“George was a strong man,” he said. “He used to lift weights and he had these 100-pound dumbbells he used to throw up with ease. He was one of the fittest guys I ever met. I first met George at the local premiere of ‘Endless Summer’ at Stephen Decatur High School in 1964. I got a ticket and went in, then I went back out and gave the stub to George.”

Johnson said the Ocean City community won’t soon forget Feehley’s contributions to the resort.

“He’s an Ocean City legend,” he said. “He was one of the coolest guys in Ocean City. He was a true classic and won’t be forgotten.”

Even late in life, Feehley continued to train and compete in several high profile lifeguard competitions. In November, he donated the numerous medals he had one over the years to the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum. According to an online article published in 2002, Feehley was asked why he continued to train and compete in the lifeguard competitions at his late age.

“It’s what I do,” he said. “While some guys play golf, tennis or go fishing, I compete in lifeguard competitions, mainly because I enjoy doing it. I feel fortunate that I can still get out there and compete.”

Feehley often competed in lifeguard competitions with athletes half his age or younger. He competed in national and international events where the senior divisions stopped at 65, even when he was in his 70s at the time. In 1996, he competed in the world championships in South Africa against a pool of 1,500 athletes from around the globe at the age of 70. He was the oldest member of the U.S. team, but earned a silver medal in rescue board paddling and placed fourth in two other events. A year later, Feehley won two silvers and a bronze at the USLA National Championships in San Diego.

According to legend, he was once in Chicago competing in a lifeguard competition when he was befriended by some Japanese competitors in the same event. When Feehley revealed his age, they all started bowing to him. Whenever they passed Feehley on the beach or at the hotel, they continued to bow, according to Towson University professor and former Ocean City Beach Patrol member Ellworth Boyd, who wrote an extensive article on Feehley in American Lifeguard magazine over a decade ago.

Feehley had also been a member of the Ocean City American Legion Sinepuxent Post 166, the Ocean City Beach Patrol, the Life Saving Association of America, the Ocean City Realtors Association and the Dune Club. A private memorial service will be held by the family at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his name to the Ocean City Beach Patrol Fund at 109 Dorchester Street, Ocean City, Md. 21842.


Team Effort Leads To ‘Happy Ending’ To Ocean City Locks Story

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OCEAN CITY — Valentine’s Day weekend provided the perfect backdrop for a great love story with a happy ending this week involving a pair of locks attached to a pole on the Ocean City Boardwalk by a visiting couple several years ago that briefly went missing before being found again on Monday.

Back on Valentine’s Day in 2008, Lauren Burr and her boyfriend and future husband were visiting Ocean City. The young couple purchased a large, metal lock and carved their initials on it before hanging it on a post on the Boardwalk at Dorchester Street as a symbol of their growing love for each other. A year later, Burr’s boyfriend joined the Marines. The couple got married in March 2010 and Burr’s husband then went away for a year for training.

During his absence, Burr would often visit Ocean City and return to visit the symbolic lock hanging from the post on the Boardwalk at Dorchester Street. After Burr’s husband completed his training, the couple moved to North Carolina in April 2011 and two months later learned they were expecting their first child. When Burr was eight months pregnant, the couple returned to their favorite bench near the lock they had hung three years earlier and added a second, smaller lock. The second lock was carved with the letter “C” for their soon-to-be first child Claire.

The couple returned often to the bench near the post on the Boardwalk that held the two locks, which had weathered and begun to show their age. According to Burr, the locks had survived hot summers, harsh winters, more than a few storms and even Hurricane Sandy. She said this week she was happy to see them still hanging strong after that terrible storm.

Last week, Burr’s friends were visiting Ocean City and were well aware of the locks the couple had hung. However, when they visited the site, not only were the locks gone, but the pole on which they had been attached were also missing, as were many of the other familiar poles in the same area. Through various connections, Ocean City Councilman Doug Cymek was made aware of the situation and set in motion in effort to locate the symbolic locks. Through mutual friends, Cymek’s daughter made the councilman aware of the situation.

“It was interesting how it came to my attention,” said Cymek this week. “I was contacted by my daughter, who was contacted by a mutual friend that knew Lauren and knew the story of the missing locks. I told my daughter it might be a long shot, but I would make an effort to find out what happened to the locks and the pole.”

As it turns out, that particular pole and others in the area were removed to be refurbished as an add-on to the recently approved Boardwalk Arch recoating and restoration. Cymek contacted Public Works Director Hal Adkins and City Engineer Terry McGean to find out where the poles had been relocated.

Some of the poles had been stored in a storage facility, while others, including the one with the two symbolic locks attached, had already been sent out to the contractor for refurbishing. Ocean City staffers on Monday were trying to locate the missing pole and the locks attached to it, and through a series of phone calls and other communications, it was determined the locks had been taken off the pole by simply unscrewing the bracket they were attached to and were found sitting on a bench at the contractor’s facility. As a result, the locks are safe and sound and will be reattached to the same pole at the same location in the future, likely somewhat higher than they once were.

“We were able to get a happy ending,” said Cymek. “We had a lot of people involved in finding them, many of whom were off on Monday because of the holiday. We know our visitors have a special place in their heart for Ocean City and something we might think is so small is clearly a huge part of someone else’s memories of the beach. With a little bit of help from our staff, we are hoping to restore the locks and hang them back on Dorchester Street for the Burr family to enjoy for many years to come.”

Burr, of course, was relieved the locks that had hung on the pole at Dorchester Street near the Candy Kitchen for just about six years had been found.

“I’m just so happy,” she said on Tuesday. “I never imagined so many caring people could be in one community. Ocean City has always been a special place for my husband and me, but now when we visit, it will mean so much more to us. They aren’t our locks anymore, they are everyone’s locks. Everyone has put so much effort and love into finding them and now we want to share them with everyone.”

Burr said on Tuesday the story of the lost and found locks has grown from a very personal one to a communal one.

“The first lock symbolized our love for each other, and the second lock symbolized our love for our daughter,” she said. “Now, this really illustrates the love shared by this entire community. Hopefully, this serves as a reminder for people to love one another and pay it forward.”

Annual Boat Show To Highlight Big Winter Weekend; Event Layout Will Be Tweaked Due To Ongoing Construction

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OCEAN CITY — The Seaside Boat Show returns to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center this weekend, and despite a little less space than usual due to the ongoing construction of the Performing Arts Center in the facility, the annual harbinger of warmer days to come promises to be one of the best ever.

For the last 30 years, the Seaside Boat Show, sponsored by the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists, has helped mark a turning point in the winter season for many visitors to the resort and its hearty year-round residents and this year should be no different. Coupled with the three-day President’s Day weekend with Valentine’s Day right in the middle, the boat show is a jumping off point for many businesses closed during the winter and provides a respite from the dreary winter that has dragged on longer than usual this year.

In the past, the Seaside Boat Show has battled tough winter weather, a sagging economy and other obstacles with aplomb, and although those factors might still come into play this weekend, one of the biggest changes this year is the configuration of the boat show space. The ongoing construction of the Performing Arts Center in the convention center has forced the Optimists to reconfigure the usual space and make adjustments for some of the features.

“With the construction of the Performing Arts Centers going on, we’re going to be a little bit smaller this year,” said Ocean City-Berlin Optimists spokesman Charles Smith this week. “The large exhibit hall where we usually set up is not entirely available and our space is cut back a little bit, but the good news is we were able to cut back a little on some of the space for the larger dealers and rearranged the other space so we’re able to accommodate all of the vendors and the other features we have going on.”

Smith said those familiar with the boat show will find the entrance and ticketing areas changed this year. In the past, boat show visitors entered the convention center and turned to the right to access the ticket areas and the event itself. This year, tickets for the event will be sold to the left of the main entrance to the facility in an area near the convention center’s box office. Aside from the rearranging of some of the space, visitors to the Seaside Boat Show can expect much of what has made the event so special for over three decades.

The annual boat show, dubbed this year “the boat show that works for kids,” provides the local Optimist Club with its largest fundraising opportunities of the year with nearly all of the proceeds invested back into the community in the form of support for local youth. The local affiliate has over 120 members and is recognized as one of the best clubs in the parent Optimist International organization.

Income derived from the annual boat show helps support many local youth and community service programs in a variety of ways. For example, the Optimists hold an annual lottery during the boat show with proceeds dedicated to its scholarship program. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased throughout the weekend during the show with the drawing set for 5 p.m. on Sunday. The top prize is $75,000, with a $10,000 second-place prize and a $5,000 third-place prize. Over the last three decades, nearly 300 area students have received an estimated $1.55 million in scholarships from the boat show lottery.

While its benefits in terms of providing an economic shot in the arm for the resort business community cannot be discounted, the boat show’s biggest beneficiaries are the local charities and public service programs the Optimists support with the funds they raise. In addition to the scholarship program, the show provides the Optimist Club with the opportunity to raise funds for the many programs it supports including the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement, Diakonia, Children’s House by the Sea and all local schools and recreation programs.

One of the highlights each year is the wonderful door prize which all attendees will be eligible to win. For years, North Bay Marina and Scott and Mary McCurdy have donated a boat for the main door prize and every person who purchases a show admission ticket will once again have a chance to win it this year.

Despite the smaller space, the boat show will feature over 350 boats, 150 vendors and 50 boat dealers. The dealers and exhibitors will offer special show prices throughout the weekend. They will display their newest and most popular models along with other boating and water-related items. The large number of boats sold each year during the event makes the Seaside Boat Show one of the most popular of its kind on the east coast. The show will also have financing and insurance companies on hand to facilitate boat purchases.

As the name implies, the annual event is all about boats large and small, but there is much more going on with something to offer everybody. In addition to boats, the exhibitors will include marine electronics, trailers, canvass tops, motors, jewelry, artwork and fishing gear. The Seaside Boat Show opens on Friday, Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and concludes on Sunday, Feb. 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $1 for kids and a weekend pass can be purchased for $15.


Data Indicates No Earthquake Occurred

A Maryland Geological Survey found “earth motion activity” but data showed it was not consistent with “seismic or earthquake events.”

OCEAN CITY — There were more questions than answers late today about what caused the ground to shake and buildings to rattle in the Ocean City area shortly before noon on Thursday, but Maryland Geological Survey officials have confirmed the data collected at various seismic stations in the area is not consistent with an earthquake.

Around mid-day Thursday, there were dozens of reports of possible seismic activity from Ocean City to Ocean Pines to Bishopville and southern Sussex County and beyond as local residents reported loud booms and homes and businesses shaking for as long as 10 seconds and as many as two different times. The Maryland Geological Survey around mid-day confirmed there had been “earth motion activity” registered in the area around the same time the reports started flooding in.

“The Maryland Geological Survey (MGS) has identified earth motion activity around the same time and we have asked seismologists in the area to analyze the data further,” said MGS Director Richard Ortt on Thursday afternoon. “We have two separate teams of seismologists looking at the date from our seismometer in Reisterstown and several seismometers in the surrounding states including Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”

Later on Thursday, Ortt reported the possibility of an earthquake in the area had all but been ruled out.

“Seismologists at Columbia University have analyzed the data from three area stations at Reisterstown, the Eastern Shore and Lewes and have advised that data from those sites is not consistent with an earthquake,” he said. “Very small scale events were observed at the seismic stations, however the signatures and travel times between the stations are inconsistent and do not follow the known travel times of seismic or earthquake events.”

Essentially, the MGS by late Thursday had acknowledged tremors had occurred, but was not prepared to determine just what had happened. “Unfortunately, it was not picked up by any other reporting seismic stations in the area, so there is no consensus as to what the event was or where it originated,” a message from MGS read.

From the beginning, there was speculation the loud booms and subsequent shaking were caused by sonic booms, possible from activity at Wallops Island on the Virginia coast just south of Ocean City and Assateague, or by military jets passing over the mid-Atlantic coast or conduction training and maneuvers. However, Wallops Island spokesman Keith Koehler said on Thursday afternoon there was nothing going on at the facility that would have caused sonic booms. The Patuxent Naval Air Station in southern Maryland conducts training exercises over the Atlantic off Maryland’s coast from to time, but it is uncertain if there were any exercises being conducted on Thursday.

In November, distant rumblings were heard and felt across much of Worcester County including Ocean City causing concerns in the area about a potential earthquake or other seismic activity. However, it was determined the loud booms and  window rattling were the result of the U.S. Navy practicing simulated carrier landings for two large aircraft at Wallops. The sonic booms were the result of a new partnership between the Navy and Wallops allowing for the practice of simulated, land-based aircraft carrier landings on a modified airstrip at Wallops. The two twin-engine turboprops are expected to conduct up to 20,000 passes this year at Wallops

Council Okays Proposed Brewery Company’s Conditional Use With Stipulations

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OCEAN CITY — Despite some concerns with the potential odor, noise and other impacts on the neighboring community and adjacent businesses, the Ocean City Mayor and Council on Monday approved a conditional use request for the proposed Ocean City Brewing Company on the site of the old Adkins Lumber Company at 56th Street.

The Ocean City Brewing Company, proposed for a site along Coastal Highway at 56th Street, which most recently home to Sassy Beachwear, will be a mixed-use project including a restaurant and bar and an on-site brewery producing beer for sale on the property and for wholesale distribution. The proposed brewery is of a much larger scale than the smaller local breweries that have sprung up in and around the resort area in recent years and consequently needed approval as a conditional use in the commercially-zoned area in and around 56th Street.

The conditional use approval is just another step, albeit an important one, for the project. The Ocean City Planning Commission, which is expected to review the overall site plan for the project on Tuesday night, sent a favorable recommendation for the conditional use approval to the Mayor and Council after allaying some of their own concerns with the brewery segment of the project. After considerable debate on Monday, the Mayor and Council approved the conditional use request but only after adding several conditions of their own.

The project includes an on-site brewery capable of producing 1,000 gallons of beer, or roughly 60 kegs, in a single batch. During the Planning Commission review of the conditional use request, company staffers explained the brewery would likely produce one batch per week at most times of the year, with more than one batch produced at other times depending on the demand. The process takes at least two days from start to finish, so even at peak times the brewery might produce a batch two or three times per week.

Much of the brewing process will take place inside the existing building on the site, but there are certain elements that must be accommodated outside the existing building, perhaps most importantly a 31-foot tall grain storage bin, or silo, located outside and at the rear of the property.

The grain used in the brewing process will be delivered by truck and air-blown into the grain storage bin, or silo, which will hold enough grain, or malted barley, for 10 batches of beer, meaning it could be filled about once every 10 weeks depending on the volume of business and frequency of the brewing process. In addition, the used grain, or by-product of the process, will be stored in a large container truck on the property, until it can be hauled away. The by-product has use as feed for poultry and other agricultural uses and will be hauled away the day the brewing process is completed in most cases.

When it reviewed and ultimately approved the conditional use request last month, the Planning Commission voiced concerns over the potential odor of the brewing process and subsequent storage of the by-product on the site and issued its favorable recommendation after some of those concerns were allayed by the applicant. The applicant told the Planning Commission the brewing process would take about four to five hours at least once a week and characterized it as no more offensive than a neighborhood bakery.

On Monday, the Mayor and Council had their own concerns about the potential odor during the brewing process and during the on-site storage of the spend grain as by-product. The town’s elected officials also voiced concern about the appearance of the 31-foot grain storage silo, which will certainly change the landscape in and around the 56th Street area.

“I have some concerns with the look of that grain storage bin, although I’ve been told not to call it a silo,” said Councilmember Joe Mitrecic. “I personally like the smell of beer brewing, but not everybody does.”

Councilmember Margaret Pillas voiced concern about the potential aroma and its impacts on neighboring properties.

“I remember lumber stacked back there, but I don’t remember a smell for several blocks,” said Pillas. “I have a problem with the aroma. If I go to the Best Western and that aroma is wafting up to my balcony, I’m probably not getting used to it, and I’m probably not coming back.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight also expressed concern over the aroma and questioned whether there was a system available to filter, or clean, the air emanating from the brewery. Throughout the discussion, it was brought up at different times how other manufacturing companies clean the air coming from their plants.

“One of my big concerns is the aroma or odor,” said Knight. “Is there a system that can be put on it now before it’s up and running and the complaints start? Also, can’t that grain storage bin be moved inside? I think it could be an eyesore. We welcome this and I think it’s a great project, but we just need some of these issues addressed.”

The 31-foot silo will only be filled once every few weeks and perhaps even longer depending on the frequency of the brewing and the demand for the product, so any dust or noise associated with filling it is expected to be minimal, representatives reported. However, the height of the storage bin in an otherwise fairly residential area raised concerns for the council.

In addition, the on-site storage of the by-product until it can be hauled away after the brewing process also raised concerns. The concerns included the potential odor and even the likelihood seagulls will be attracted to it and everything that entails in terms of impacts on existing businesses, hotels and condos.

Mayor Rick Meehan suggested the developer find a way to move the storage of the by-product inside the facility somehow, along with other equipment expected to be housed outside the building.

“I think they need to find a way to move the storage of the by-product inside because there is plenty of room,” said Meehan. “The same goes for the CO2 system and other equipment. Move that all inside. I think that will alleviate some of the concerns.”

Nonetheless, Meehan said the project is an attractive one for Ocean City and urged the council to approve the conditional use request if certain conditions were implemented and adhered to.

“There’s a lot going on at this property,” he said. “We talk about businesses declining in Ocean City and this is an example of somebody trying to start a viable business. Maybe we need to talk about how it can be done and not how it can’t be done.”

Meehan said the council had before it a request for a conditional use, meaning it had ability to put certain conditions on its approval. If the developer fails to live up to the conditions placed on the approval, the conditional use, by definition, can be taken away.

“This is a permanent conditional use,” he said. “Any time they violate a condition, they can lose their approval. I think they know it’s in their best interest to adhere to any conditions put on it.”

Councilman Doug Cymek said he had conversations with the developer and was satisfied concerns would be addressed through the approval process.

“I’ve been talking to the brewery group and I think they truly want to do whatever they have to in order to make everybody happy,” he said.

Knight agreed the project was exciting and voiced pleasure with the overall concept, but still came back to the large grain storage bin on the property.

“We have to make a decision that’s best for the town,” she said. “We want to encourage this type of development, but I still think that 31-foot silo is going to be a point of contention in the community.”

Pillas said while she liked the concept, she couldn’t vote to approve the conditional use without significant changes.

“This is going to be a no-vote for me,” said Pillas. “We’d love for you to come into town, but I think there are just too many impacts on neighboring businesses.”

The Mayor and Council listed several conditions for approval of the conditional use request. Among them are air scrubbers on the system to alleviate the odor, moving the grain storage bin inside the building, moving the by-product storage inside until such time as it can be removed, a six-foot privacy fence and trees planted in the buffer between neighboring properties, no outside seating for the restaurant and no canned beer produced in the brewery. The council also adopted the conditions placed on the project by the Planning Commission that required the applicant to pay any fees related to the treated wastewater from the brewery and the monitoring of any site plan changes.

The council voted 4-2 with Pillas and Brett Ashley opposed and Councilman Dennis Dare absent to approve the conditional use request.


School Officials Explain How Weather Closure Process; Tuesday Pre-Storm Closure Defended

Baltimore Ave. in Ocean City is pictured on Wednesday morning. Photo by Chris Parypa Photography

NEWARK — The Tuesday night snowstorm followed by single-digit temperatures for much of the week led to a mid-winter break for Worcester County schools this week, but the decision-making process is complicated and not always popular, according to school officials.

With an ominous forecast calling for a major winter storm and as much as four to eight inches of snow and high winds in the local area starting Tuesday afternoon, school officials early Tuesday morning made the decision to close the county public schools that day. The first snowflakes did not fall until late in the afternoon on Tuesday, leading some in the community to question the decision, but during a brief Board of Education meeting on Tuesday morning, moved up to an early start time because of the pending storm, Supervisor of Maintenance and Operations and Pupil Transportation Steve Price explained to school board members how the decision was made.

The planned closure on Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday, followed by the decision to close schools on Tuesday in advance of the storm, followed by the post-storm closures on Wednesday and Thursday had county students off for much of the week. As of mid-day Thursday, no decision had been announced for Friday. However, Friday was already scheduled for a half-day for the end of the grading period and schools are closed on Monday for a planned teacher professional day.

With just a half day planned for Friday and Monday’s already scheduled closure for a professional day, it appeared likely the county schools will be closed for six straight school days and eight total counting the weekend, leading to a break the equivalent of the holiday closure. It’s clearly not the best situation for all involved, except maybe the students, but one school official said this week was unavoidable given the conditions.

Price said the process starts as early as 3:30 a.m. He checks conditions in his area and consults with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Price then contacts the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, confers with his counterparts in neighboring school districts to get a consensus and ultimately contacts Assistant Superintendent of Administration Lou Taylor to reach a final decision.

While some questioned the wisdom of closing the schools on Tuesday when the storm ultimately didn’t materialize until the early evening, Price said the decision was not difficult based on the rather ominous forecast.

“It’s a long, involved process,” he said. “As for today [Tuesday], the big concern is we would get everybody in school and start the day, then turn around a couple hours later and send everyone back home.”

Worcester County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jerry Wilson is involved in the decision-making process. Wilson said the uncertainty surrounding the forecast makes the decision to open or close the schools difficult and leaves the decision makers open to criticism one way or the other.

“We always take that into account,” he said. “If the storm doesn’t materialize as expected, we often take some criticism. As far as Tuesday goes, the thing to remember is we’ll have buses with kids still out there at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. It’s not always the regular school hours that lead to a decision.”

The storm did ultimately arrive on Tuesday evening, and while the overall snow totals did not match the predictions of up to eight inches, enough of the white stuff did fall in the local area to cover the roads with ice and drifting snow. The decision to close on Wednesday was an easy one, and despite plowing and salting, the situation had not improved by yesterday, leading officials to close again on Thursday. With Friday’s planned half day and the temperatures still well below the freezing mark, schools will likely be closed all week.

While the major roadways were mostly cleared by Thursday, the side roads and rural areas were still covered with snow and ice through much of the latter part of the week, making the closure decision an easy one for school officials. Price said one of the main concerns is the older high school students who drive themselves to and from school.

“First and foremost is the safety of the students,” he said. “One of my main concerns is the 16-year-old students in high school that aren’t used to driving. They cause me as much heartache as any other contributing factor.”

Price said the wide disparity in road conditions across Worcester and the Lower Shore factors majorly into the decision.

“We understand not every county road is going to be cleared,” he said. “Worcester County has very limited equipment and when that first snowflake falls, panic sometimes ensues. The kids and even adults are not used to it. The bus drivers are pros, but somebody coming the other way may not be a pro.”

By late in the week, most parents were at their wit’s end with kids home all week. Most families have two working parents and many have younger children in day care, complicating the daily routine when schools are closed.

Board of Education member Sara Thompson asked if the decision can be expedited to allow for parents and guardians to make plans in terms of little ones in day care and older kids being home without supervision. Taylor said those factors are part of the decision-making process.

“We do that when possible,” he said. “We understand the issues parents have with day care and planning.”

While snow and ice, poor road conditions and plummeting temperatures resulted in the major closures this week, another common natural phenomenon through much of the school year is fog. County schools occasionally have one- or two-hour fog delays, and Price said this week those decisions are complicated.

“Those are tricky, but we always err on the side of caution,” he said. “I can get up at 5 a.m. and not be able to see the hand in front of my face, and an hour later, I can see all the way to Chincoteague or vice versa. Sometimes, it happens the other way around.”