Large Snow Drifts Challenged County Public Works Crews

SNOW HILL – Much like his counterparts at the municipal and state level, Worcester County Public Works Director John Tustin attributed the fast response to Sunday’s snowstorm to the efforts of county employees, who were willing to cut short their holiday weekend to clear the streets.

“They’re a great bunch of guys,” said Tustin. “We’re very blessed in that.”

The blizzard, which began on Christmas evening, buried much of Maryland under nearly more than a foot of snow, hitting hardest in Worcester County.

“There was a lot of drifting Monday,” said Tustin. “The wind was heavier in this storm [compared to last year’s]…we saw drifts of eight to 10 feet. It was harder to clean up than the storms last year.”

Despite the powerful winds and 11 to 14 inches of snowfall, Tustin reported that all but 20 roads had been classified as “clear” by Monday night, with the rest open by Tuesday.

“Everyone really pulled together,” said Tustin, mentioning how much he enjoyed listening to his employees over the radio and how all of his crews were willing to help the others. “The county is broken into 19 different sectors so there are 19 different crews. Once one is done with their route, they’ll move over and help the next crew.”

Tustin explained that the county cleanup is somewhat unique compared to the state.

“We don’t start at the first snowflake like state highway,” he said. “We wait until there’s something on the road.”

Additionally, the county only uses a mixture of salt-brine to de-ice the roads.
“We don’t use granular or rock salt,” he said.

The salt-brine is used to treat select intersections. Once snow has begun to accumulate, plowing begins, with specific heavy equipment used to deal with drifts, Tustin said.

According to Tustin, the biggest hindrance to cleanup is not weather as much as the human factor. Several abandoned vehicles, which had gotten stuck Sunday and left overnight, kept crews from working in certain areas.

As of Tuesday, Worcester was on schedule with the state cleanup with all main roads generally ice free and secondary streets in good condition.

Surprisingly, Tustin took the time to mention the difficulty in dealing with the prior weekend’s storm, which only deposited about two inches of snow in most sections of the county.

“It was because the road’s froze first,” said Tustin, citing the difficulty in combating ice.