OCEAN CITY — With 10-plus inches of snow falling on the resort last weekend, it took mid-week warming temperatures and a steady rain to truly clear Coastal Highway, leading the State Highway Administration (SHA) this week to acknowledge it dropped the ball somewhat in Ocean City.
Last Saturday’s storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on the area, essentially crippling the flow of traffic in the resort area unaccustomed to so much of the white stuff in a single event. It was expected that even the main roads, including Coastal Highway and Philadelphia and Baltimore avenues, would be largely unpassable on Saturday and even into Sunday, but the resort’s main thoroughfares were still largely covered with snow on Monday and even Tuesday to some extent.
On Monday, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said at a Tourism Committee meeting he had been in contact with SHA officials about the perceived lack of effort in the resort following the storm and had been told SHA admitted to not deploying its full resources on Coastal Highway, which is owned and maintained by the state. At Tuesday’s Transportation Committee meeting, Public Works Director Hal Adkins said he too had received a similar explanation from SHA officials.
“They realized they left things a little messy here in Ocean City,” he said. “They acknowledged they could have done a better job. When you look at Route 50 and some of the other major roads, there really was no comparison.”
Adkins said a variety of factors conspired to the slow storm cleanup in Ocean City compared to many of the other major corridors in the area.
“The issues were really three-fold,” he said. “They use subcontractors who were using rubber-edged plows, which are fine when the snow is nice and fluffy, but when you get that ice pack underneath like we saw this week, they can’t get down to street level.”
Adkins said another issue was SHA did not have its usual personnel in place on the Lower Shore during and after the storm, which contributed to the deployment errors in Ocean City.
“The other issue was the assistant district engineer in charge of maintenance for about 30 years retired and has not been replaced,” he said. “So, essentially you had another guy who was pulling double duty during the storm and the aftermath.”
Adkins said SHA began applying a salt brine to Coastal Highway on Monday to help dissolve the sheet of ice on the road surface, but the travel lanes, particularly the bus lane, were still under snow.
In terms of the side streets maintained by Ocean City, Adkins said most had been plowed early in the week, but there were a few issues with some private driveways being blocked.
“Once we plow, snow gets pushed in front of driveways on our side streets,” he said. “We do our best to get the streets plowed before ‘Harry Homeowner’ gets out there to do his driveway, but in some cases we made another pass and blocked them in again. We did get a few complaints on that, but we don’t plow driveways and our top priority is getting the streets cleared.”