On November 2, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett gave the welcoming remarks at the Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) snow summit, an annual event to assess the preparedness of the County’s snow plans and fleet.
This year, MCDOT discussed, what it believes to be, its first-in-the-nation navigation system that uses conventional off-the-shelf technology programmed in-house to boost efficiency for drivers and contractors. MCDOT also described its improved approach to ensure adequate snow removal resources are available to respond to winter storms.
The following day, Montgomery County conducted a winter storm emergency preparedness exercise that involved departments and agencies throughout the County. Staff simulated handling a 20-inch snow storm that caused power outages to 300,000 households.
During the exercise, MCDOT tested the preparedness of the County’s snow plans and fleet. Snow plow operators ran their snow routes on the nearly 5,000 lane miles of County-maintained roads.
Go to the County’s website for more information about snow removal and to view the County’s interactive snow map that indicates the status of plowing operations during snow storms.
During snowstorms, Montgomery County’s homepage features a “Winter Storm Information” graphic that links to up-to-the-minute news about the County’s storm response and provides useful links and information, including the County’s new snow map.
The best source of information on the County’s services continues to be the 311 telephone information line, which can be accessed by calling 311 (240-777-0311 from outside the County) or online at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/311. During storms or other emergencies, 311 operating hours are extended as needed.
Residents are encouraged to also sign up for Alert Montgomery, which delivers important emergency alerts, notifications and updates through an e-mail account (work, home, other); cell phone; text pager; BlackBerry; wireless PDA; or text message. Or, follow Montgomery County on Facebook or Twitter.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced the launch of a new, online map that will make it easier for residents to decide when to safely venture out following a snowstorm. The map will show the progress of snow plows throughout the County and indicate when emergency, primary and neighborhood streets have been cleared. A zoom feature allows residents to focus on the plow status of their immediate neighborhood and then zoom out to check on a trip route or anywhere in the County. The application was created through a joint effort by the County’s departments of Technology Services and Transportation.
Learn more about the County’s action plan for snow removal by reading the recently updated “When It Snows” brochure (pdf). The brochure explains the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) approach to dealing with winter storms. With a workforce of 200 employees with 175 pieces of snow removal equipment and 180 contractors with 225 pieces of equipment, crews work around the clock until all County-maintained streets are passable. More resources may be called in for exceptional storms.
When snow is in the forecast, MCDOT crews are mobilized and they begin pre-treating main roads. Once it begins snowing, crews work continuously to salt and sand nearly 1,000 lane miles of primary (arterial roads connecting subdivisions or business districts) and secondary roads (main collector streets through subdivisions) and keep them in “bare pavement” condition. This ensures that in case of an emergency every County resident is within one-quarter mile of a cleared road. As snow accumulations reach three inches, plowing operations begin.
Once the snow stops falling and major roads are clear, crews then turn their attention to snow removal from more than 4,100 lane miles of neighborhood streets. It’s important for residents to understand that MCDOT’s goal is to make these streets passable – not clear them to bare pavement.
The type of snow (wet or powdery), pavement temperature, ambient air temperature, and wind conditions following a storm affect how quickly snow can be removed. MCDOT offers these general guidelines:
It takes about 16 hours following the end of a three-inch snowfall to plow or treat every County road once.
After a 10-inch snowfall, major and primary County roads should be cleared and neighborhood streets made passable within 24 to 36 hours. Snow removal will continue until all streets have been treated at least once.
After a 15-inch snowfall, crews should complete their work in about 36 to 48 hours.
After a 24-inch snowfall, crews should complete the work in about 48 to 60 hours.
Not all roads in Montgomery County are maintained by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). When it snows, several agencies and jurisdictions are out in force clearing snow and ice, and this can cause confusion for residents.
MCDOT clears more than 5,000 lane miles of County-maintained roads. All State-maintained, numbered roads (such as Georgia Avenue, Maryland Route 97 or Rockville Pike, Maryland Route 355) are cleared by the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA). Other departments, outside agencies and governmental jurisdictions also have responsibility for plowing. They include the Montgomery County Board of Education; the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission; the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro); municipalities; and homeowner’s associations. Commercial parking lot owners plow their own properties and are prohibited from moving snow into the street.
The County’s new snow map indicates whether a road is maintained by the County or not. Or, call 311 to check on who plows your road.
To help prepare for winter, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) Division of Highway Services held its annual Storm Summit on November 4. County Executive Isiah Leggett kicked off the event that brings together County crews and contractors to review the latest improved snow removal strategies. Highway Services partners with private contractors to supplement the County’s snow removal resources when needed. During the February blizzards, nearly 1,000 pieces of contractor equipment were used.
The day before the summit, snow plow operators held a practice drill by simulating a six-inch snow storm. The “mock” snow storm gave staff the opportunity to run their plow routes, test equipment and procedures, and familiarize new drivers with their routes.
Having experienced more than 100 inches of snow and ice last season, MCDOT is prepared for the worst that Mother Nature may throw at us this season. Last winter, the County received more than 100 inches of snow or ice. A key to MCDOT’s readiness is the Storm Operation Center, where staff manages clean-up operations using state-of-the-art technology to monitor conditions and target resources.
When a snow storm hits, residents can access storm information on the County’s website or by calling 311.
February’s back-to-back blizzards buried Montgomery County under a record of more than 40 inches of snow, left more than 80,000 County households and businesses without power and caused hundreds of trees and tree limbs to fall. To meet the challenge of these historic storms, Montgomery County government responded aggressively, mobilizing an unprecedented amount of snow removal equipment, opening shelters, conducting door-to-door welfare checks on elderly and disabled residents, making snowplows available to accompany PEPCO crews to ensure they had access to areas where power was out, and so much more.
County call takers handled 31,000 phone calls and email service requests. Maryland National Guard personnel and 20 Humvees assisted County Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) in reaching seniors and others with special needs. During the period from Sunday, February 7 to Friday, February 12, FRS checked on the welfare of 325 people. Nearly 70 volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles also pitched in to help the County.
During February’s two blizzards, the staff of the Division of Highway Services (DHS) worked 18 straight days, 24 hours a day to combat the storms, with only one break so staff could visit with their families on Sunday, February 14, Valentine’s Day. During DHS’ full mobilization, crews eat and sleep at the depots or even in their trucks and work non-stop until the roads are once again passable. What makes their efforts even more exceptional is the record winter season we’ve experienced: DHS has fully mobilized for 13 winter storm events between December 5 and February 25, including working Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
For the February storms, DHS rallied to commandeer resources throughout the region. They deployed an unprecedented 1,200 pieces of equipment – up from 550 for the December storm – to clear 900 miles of primary and secondary routes and 4,128 lane miles of residential roads. The County called in contractors from as far away as North Carolina and Florida to tackle the clean-up, reflecting County Executive Leggett’s determination to use whatever resources necessary to dig out county neighborhoods.
There are so many incredible stories of crews rescuing stranded motorists, fire trucks and PEPCO crews. They cleared paths to power lines so PEPCO could restore power, caretakers could get to disabled residents or residents could get medical assistance. DHS staff proved their incredible dedication to service and provided extraordinary efforts to aid the public in a situation that was challenging and difficult for all.
The County website helped many residents make decisions in dealing with the two record-breakingsnowstorms that hit the metropolitan area between February 5 and 10.The storms brought a 46 percent increase in the number of page views of the Montgomery County website.The number of page views for the Department of Transportation increased 204 percent, Emergency Management wasup by 203 percent and the press release views rose by 537 percent.
Leading up to, during and following the storms, the County regularly issued winter storm updates that included the status of snow plowing, Ride On service plans, and information regarding power outages, trash and recycling collections, opening of shelters, government facility closures and winter safety tips.
Over 150,000 subscribers to Alert Montgomery received regular, continuous updates. Residents are strongly encouraged to subscribe at https://alert.montgomerycountymd.gov to stay updated on the latest important information. Alerts can be sent to one or more electronic devices, including cell phones, text pagers, wireless PDAs, and home and work emails.
Additionally, Montgomery County tweeted winter storm advisories to its 2,127 Twitter followers, posted a winter storm update with weather-related safety tips on YouTube, posted 44 press releases to its 1,084 Facebook fans and emailed a Special Winter Storm Update to another 70,000 County homes.
At a January 12 County Council Transportation and Environment Committee meeting, Council members praised the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) hard work in clearing December’s record 24-inch snowfall in record time.
The National Weather Service declared that the December 19 blizzard dumped the most snow for a single storm ever recorded in Montgomery County. Yet, within 55 hours of the end of the storm, every one of the County’s more than 5,000 lane miles of road that the Division of Highway Services (DHS) clears had been made passable.
Council Vice President Valerie Ervin told DOT Director Art Holmes, Deputy Director Al Roshdieh and DHS Chief Keith Compton that she “never had such great removal on my street.” DHS did “fantastic work, and we thank you for that. ….. It was exemplary.”
Council President Nancy Floreen echoed Ms. Ervin’s statement, saying “terrific job” and “We should all be very proud.”
Councilmember Roger Berliner told DOT staff, “Many of you didn’t stop for four days….. I know how hard you worked…. This was an unprecedented level of snow.”
Councilmember Nancy Navarro said she wanted to “express gratitude for the very hard work you did… in this unprecedented blizzard. I appreciate the support you gave us.”
The last comparable snowfall that occurred was in 1996. During that storm, DHS fielded more than 10,000 resident calls for service. During December’s storm, DHS received about 1,300 calls.
Compton talked about the challenges that the December storm posed. At times, more than 1.5 inches of snow fell each hour, requiring DHS to replow main roads and emergency routes more than five times. Winds created snow drifts up to three feet and blew recently plowed snow back onto cleared roads. Compton told Council members that his crews and contractors used more than 500 pieces of equipment, worked non-stop for four days, and drove more than 18,000 miles.
Compton explained that many of the calls from residents originated because they expect neighborhood streets to be plowed to bare pavement. Although emergency routes, main roads and arterial roads are cleared to bare pavement, DHS’s policy is to make neighborhood roads passable. Even if it were possible to obtain more snow removal equipment, trying to clear neighborhood roads to bare pavement would cause much greater environmental damage from salt and abrasives, quadruple costs and significantly delay plowing of all neighborhoods.
Winter, unfortunately, is not over yet so the next time it snows, residents and business owners are asked to assist disabled and elderly residents who may need help in clearing snow and ice from their sidewalks.
County law requires all residential and commercial property owners to clear their public sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm. All residents or property owners are strongly encouraged to be good neighbors by clearing the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses, as well as assisting those who may not be physically able to do so.
Montgomery County’s Ride On bus system launched its “S” Service Plan that is designed to provide bus service on every route during snow, storms or emergencies. During adverse weather, riders can expect less frequent service than normal. However, for the first time, Ride On’s S Plan provides a guideline to passengers that spells out how often buses are expected to run on each route and when the first and last trips will occur.
The S Service Plan applies to weekdays, so Ride On never needed to put the Plan in place during the record-setting winter storm that began on Friday, December 18. On Saturday, December 19, Ride On was the only regional bus system to operate until 3 p.m., despite blizzard conditions. By Sunday, Ride On provided its normal service, albeit with some weather and road-related delays.
Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Highway Services staff continue to clear the record snowfall that occurred the week before Christmas, plowing and spreading abrasives throughout residential areas. With up to 24 inches of snow in some parts of the County, crews worked round the clock for three days to ensure the safety and well being of residents, clear snow from emergency and bus routes, and provide access to all roads in the County. Snow began falling Friday evening, December 18 and by Tuesday morning’s rush hour, every main and secondary road in the County was clear and every residential street had been plowed at least once. MCDOT’s goal is to make every residential street passable -- not to necessarily clear them to bare pavement.
Residents can report roads that need immediate attention on the County’s website, or they can call the MCDOT Customer Service Center at 240-777-6000.
MCDOT is responsible for clearing more than 5,000 lane miles of County roads. The Maryland State Highway Administration clears all numbered routes in the County (such as Georgia Avenue, Maryland Route 97) and municipalities, such as Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park, clear their own streets.
Earlier this month, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Highway Services (DHS) began testing their preparedness for this winter’s storms. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett attended the County’s snow summit, where officials from all agencies in the County with snow removal responsibilities assess their readiness and discuss new initiatives.
DHS also conducted an all-day exercise to test the County’s snow plans and fleet by simulating a six-inch snow storm at the Snow Operations Center. Patrols drove snow routes on most of the 4,800 lane miles of County-maintained roads.