Pr. George's leader faces first snow storm
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker was nervous.
Driving back from a lobbying trip to Annapolis Wednesday afternoon, where he pressed
Gov. Martin O'Malley for some cold, hard cash for Prince George's, Baker was confronting his first big snow storm as the county's top elected leader. He was hearing horror stories about road conditions and difficult commutes, and was hoping there would be no problems as his public works department tried to clear Prince George's 1,800 miles of roads.
Once he got home to Cheverly on Wednesday night, his anxiety increased as the
heavy, wet snow began to smother the sidewalks and roads.
"I was waking up every few hours," Baker said. "At 1 a.m. I texted Mike (Errico, the
acting chief administrative officer) and said, 'Are we prepared?'"
It wasn't as if the county's road crews hadn't worked hard to get ready for the storm. Working 12-hour shifts, the crews had come in around 5 a.m. Wednesday. After about four hours on the streets, the trucks were reloaded with salt to get them ready for the next shift.
Still, Baker was concerned. Glued to the television early Thursday, he took another catnap at 3 a.m, woke up at 4 a.m. to check in again.
Around the same time, public works chief Haitham Hijazi was starting a conference call with about 10 of his top lieutenants to figure out how many drivers should come in and what parts of the sprawling county they should be salting and plowing.
While downed power lines and power outages hampered road crews in several
communities -- and police had to force 50 cars on Bock Road in Oxon Hill Wednesday night to turn back to make room for a plow -- the county appeared by Thursday morning to have cleaned all of its major roads, and made headway on most of secondary roads.
County officials also had opened a warming center at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex near Fedex Field in Landover for residents who do not have power. And they encouraged residents to call 301-350-0500 for non-emergency calls and to obtain information about road clearing efforts.
Late Thursday, Hijazi was sifting through reports about road conditions, and convening another conference call to figure out what still needed to be done. All told, there were about 279 trucks on the road throughout the storm and in the aftermath Thursday, and Hijazi had no plans to stop.
"We are trying to make it as scientific as possible," he said. "We will make sure that the residential areas are 100 percent completely cleared before I let them go."
Meanwhile, Baker, who announced that he has allocated $5 million to the public works department for new trucks, expected to sleep a little better Thursday night.
--Miranda S. Spivack
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