OCEAN CITY — Last weekend’s major snowstorm forced state and local public works crews to think outside the box with their efforts to clear the resort’s roads.
The storm began late last Friday and continued through much of the day on Saturday. By the time the last flake fell, the resorts streets were buried under at least a foot of snow by most accounts. Contributing to the problem were strong, gusty winds that caused the snow to drift in many areas. Road crews were on the case quickly during and after the storm, the magnitude of which might have paralyzed the resort in previous years.
Coastal Highway and Baltimore Avenue are state roadways, making Maryland Department of Transportation-State Highway Administration (MDOT-SHA) crews responsible for clearing them. SHA crews work closely with the Town of Ocean City Public Works Department, which is responsible for clearing the side streets, for example. Deputy Public Works Director Woody Vickers this week explained how the magnitude of the storm caused SHA and the public works department to change their strategy.
“They took a different approach with this one,” he said. “For one, there was the severity of the storm. Secondly, we’ve grown over the years. There are big events on practically every weekend, so there is more urgency to get the streets cleared quickly with so many people in town.”
Vickers said in a typical snow storm of a couple of inches, SHA’s strategy is to plow Coastal Highway from the median toward the bus lane, where the snow can pile up until it melts and goes away. With last week’s storm, SHA crews brought out their snow blowers and contracted dump trucks to remove the snow from the highway.
“They used a different strategy,” he said. “They plowed from the outside curbs toward the third lane all the way down Coastal Highway and on Baltimore Avenue. When the snow stopped, they came in with big snow blowers and went down behind with big dump trucks to collect the blowing snow and remove it from the highway.”
The loaded dump trucks then transported the removed snow to the Inlet lot where it was dumped. The result has been mountains of snow on the Inlet lot several feet high. Vickers said that was all part of the plan for severe snow storms, which don’t happen often around the resort area.
“The town has a snow removal plan,” he said. “If we have to haul snow, its trucked to different designated areas around the town. The Inlet lot just happens to be the biggest and most accessible.”
Vickers said the town’s public work crews used a more traditional snow removal on the side streets for which they were responsible.
“From a public works perspective, we did our plowing from curb to curb,” he said. “That’s really the only means we have to clear the streets.”
Another chore to be completed during the major storm last weekend was clearing snow from the southbound traffic signals on Coastal Highway. Driving snow coated the southbound signals making it impossible during the height of the storm to discern what color the lights were.
Drivers were warned to approach all intersections with caution and come to a complete stop before proceeding through them. When the storm subsided, Ocean City Fire Department crews cleared snow from the southbound traffic signals with fire hoses from a truck.