Snow Update From Councilman Tom Dernoga
Feb 11 10:15 AM

My staff and I are monitoring phone calls to the office (301) 952-3887 and emails that we receive. We are forwarding concerns directly to the personnel supervising the snow removal teams. I am getting these emails on my Blackberry - your message is being read and dealt with.

Weather today: It will be a bright day due to sunny skies and a fresh blanket of snow. Winds from the northwest at 15 to 25 mph will lead to wind chills in the teens. This will lead to blowing and drifting snow in open areas resulting in occasionally low visibility. Highs will struggle to reach the freezing mark.

This means that while we can be thankful that the snow has stopped, the winds will blow snow from the huge piles back onto cleared roadways, making them dangerous - And, creating more work for the clean up crews. There will not be any real melting helping us and the larger piles will be blocks of ice further exacerbating clean up. With no real warm weather on the horizon, clean up will happen slowly, there will be black ice all over and there will large mounds of snow obscuring views at intersections and interchanges for awhile. sigh.


Yesterday - with State Highway, PEPCO and others deciding to pull their crews off the roads, I concluded that it was the day to listen and stay home. And, I lost power for a good bit of the day, so I was rather limited. DPWT kept their crews out on the roads. They had two goals - First, to try to keep up on the Primary Roads. Second, to try to reach those side streets and cul-du-sacs that had not been reached.

[Yeah, yeah, I know - Jack Johnson claimed that 95% of County roads had been cleared or seen a plow or something... OK, well that is NOT north County. I know that and I am not confused about what has been done or not done. I also know that "done" means "passable" which really means potentially passable. More on that below.]

So, yesterday, I did get emails from a number of people who had waited forever - and they got plows mid-to-late day. I don't know how great the plowing was, but I will check it out. The good news is that the plows continued to work in really bad conditions to get where they were still needed.

Today - the focus is going to be on Primary roads (that's the way it has to be). However, I am commandeering a 4-wheel drive and some plows and I will be touring the District. [I know I'm the only person crazy enough to drive the residential streets in a Prius checking things out, but I know that to get everywhere I really need a good vehicle.] So, you should really expect to see plows FRIDAY and SATURDAY in your neighborhood. If you live farther from the main streets in your neighborhood or in a cozy cul-du-sac, the laws of physics put you near the end.

Having said expect Friday/Saturday, because we have had so many corners that were not reached timely, I am trying to get a couple plows to stay in neighborhoods today - that would be the crew that comes on from Noon to Midnight, so don't expect anything for awhile. And, since I will be lucky to get a couple of plows before mid-day tomorrow, they will not be able to get everywhere. Expect Friday/Saturday and be pleasantly surprised if you see a plow tonight or if you wake up to a plowed street.

Now, I'm no plow expert - far from it - however, with the amount of snow, the huge piles, the wind drifts, the black ice, the continuing cold (etc.), I do not think that a plow is coming in right now and making your street perfect. There is a lot of packed ice under the snow and it needs the snow off, salt on*, some sunlight or warmer temps and then follow-up plowing. In order to get to all residential streets fairly timely, the plows cannot sit in one neighborhood overly long. They will be back again, though.

Another thing - with all of the cars sitting along the side of the roadway.... those cars make it real hard to plow completely and it really slows things down. Also, it often has the drivers dumping the snow load in your driveway and then you scream at the drivers. We do not like when they do this and I know they are trained not to do it, but sometimes they are frustrated to dealing with all of the cars whizzing by like crazy, or blocking the road, or parked where it's tough to clean your street. While we would love every county employee and every contractor to be well-trained and professional, we don't get enough snow usually to practice (and not with snow this deep) and they also get frustrated. Please report any rudeness or unprofessional behavior - it cannot be tolerated - but also understand that these drivers are working 12 hours solid and dealing with a lot of inconsiderate citizens who are making their jobs more difficult.

If you can get your cars and your neighbors cars off the street for a couple of days, you are much more likely to see a real good plow job.

OK, I'm wrapping up here - as i said, I will be commandeering a 4-wheel drive and trying to sneak off with a couple of plows to get the jump on neighborhood streets later today. To the extent we can get these plows, they will be focused on those places that have not seen a plow or saw it and the end. [I know, you all think that was YOU, but I know the places that really were at the end and still need help.] You really should look for plows mid-day Friday through Saturday. It could even be Sunday - there is a LOT of work and there cannot be plows in all locations at the same time.

NOTE: Following are the general guidelines for snow removal - it may be slower because of the previous storm. Please have reasonable expectation. We are looking at the 8" - 12" expectation measuring from about 7pm yesterday. Considering the windy blizzard conditions on top of the previous snow and you can see where mid-day Friday is what you should expect, with carry over to Saturday.

Primary Roads 4 - 8 inches Bare Pavement within 12 hours

Residential Streets 4 - 8 inches Passable within 24-36 hours

Primary Roads 8 - 12 inches Bare Pavement within 24 hours

Residential Streets 8 - 12 inches Passable within 36 - 48 hours

• Move and keep vehicles off snow emergency routes

• Park in driveways or other off-road locations wherever possible

• Park only on the EVEN-NUMBERED sides of streets

(This is very important in order to allow plows to clear residential roadways. Plows cannot maneuver around vehicles to clear roadways. One side of the roadway must clear of vehicles for plow drivers to effectively perform snow and ice removal services.)

Call or email with updates from your community, but follow the expectations.

Tom Dernoga, Chair
Prince George's County Council (District 1)
(301) 952-3887

*** If MY power goes out, I will lose internet access so updates and replies will cease for awhile.

**** Tom's rant: Two peeves. Look, we are ALL frustrated and no one wants "excuses". At the same time, while many people "get" that this storm(s) has been epic, plenty of people have an expectation that they should get the same service for this 24-30" storm as they should for an 8" storm. That just wasn't going to happen. I know I'm unhappy with certain aspects of the operations, and I am taking those up with the Administration. However, that doesn't mean that some of the complaints that I am getting are logical or remotely realistic.

Peeve #1 - Why are Route 1, Route 197, I-95 worse in Prince George's County than Howard, Montgomery or AA? What is wrong with County government such that these main roads are in poor shape? WRONG!! These are State roads under SHA jurisdiction. It is very curious why the State has our roads in worse shape than other Counties. I'm unhappy with it too, and the question really does need to be asked. Same State Highway Administration, different results here. DPWT and I can take the blame for Cherry lane, Contee Road and Cherry Hill, etc., but please do not blame us for State roads.

Peeve #2 - Montgomery County roads are so much better. Why is the County so incompetent? Arguably, a fair question, but it is very similar to the discussion of why the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals rarely compete with the NY Yankees for the World Series. When the Yankees have individual players making as much money as the entire Royals' team, success is going to be tough. Is this whining? Maybe, but I would love to hear all of the suggestions - I have some ideas, too, but I do not fully run this show. here are the numbers: Montgomery County budget of about $3.65 billion or about $4,200 to spend per resident. Prince George's County budget of about $2.6 billion or about $3,000 to spend per resident. Maybe I'm making excuses, maybe others have a better idea who to compete with these numbers, but there is nothing like having money to throw at your problems. For this storm event, DPWT had under 300 pieces of equipment. Montgomery usually goes with 500 pieces, but upped their complement to 900 pieces. 900 v. 300? Who will look better? So why didn't Prince George's up their complement? Good question that I am exploring. An effort was made. Was it good enough? Apparently not, but ... In some cases, contractors preferred to go with Montgomery, Howard or the State Highway. Apparently, this became a case of everyone for themselves and Prince George's got kicked around. I had no role in any of that, so I'm like you in asking what happened and why. However, I do know that wealthier counties have greater opportunities for success. For one thing, over the years of spending more money per resident for "infrastructure", Counties like Montgomery build up capacity and relationships that can help them at these times. What disappoints me is reading where Montgomery got support from MD National Guard. Did that happen here? I want to know what the State did to help the County... or, what it's going to do. We need more big dump trucks to handle the heavy snow. DPWT tried to hire some contractors and offered to pay more than the State, but were turned down because the contractors prefer operating on the open highways than trying to get into the neighborhood streets that are tougher to deal with. Yes, we definitely need to assess what went right and what went wrong, but it's really tough to listen to comparisons to how great your rich uncle did. As much as you should be expecting answers from County officials, you should also be asking what the State did to pitch in knowing that this County lacks the same financial resources as other, wealthier Counties.