State agencies asked to sharpen response to severe weather

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — State agencies are being told to prepare for more extreme weather in the years ahead.

Agencies including the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and the State Highway Administration say they’re doing all they can to prepare for the aftermath of any severe weather, but a key state lawmaker sees room for improvement.

“We are having more extreme weather emergencies than we did before. Part of that is heat waves, part of that is snowstorms, part of that is floods. We have to update the infrastructure and we have to update the operation of government agencies to respond to that new environment,” says Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-College Park, co-chair of the Environment Subcommittee.

The panel held a briefing to examine the state’s ability to respond effectively to extreme weather emergencies.

Rosapepe declared it “not good enough.” For example, Rosapepe believes the State Highway Administration could have done a better job clearing roadways more promptly following the January blizzard.

Bud Frank, director of the Office of Homeland Security for the Maryland Department of Transportation, defended the agency’s response.

“It takes much longer to clear the snow in a bigger storm than it does a small storm,” Frank told the panel.

But Rosapepe seemed unconvinced.

“I don’t think they fully internalized in the state Department of Transportation how economically disruptive these big snowstorms are. They need to have an economic focus on which roads they clear and how fast they clear them,” Rosapepe said.

In straining, bureaucratic language the state emergency management agency testified that it was preparing for the future.

“Part of our mission is to ensure that Maryland and our stakeholders, including Marylanders, are striving to increase our capabilities to respond to all hazards, which include extreme weather. MEMA has made and will be making a number of investments in order to prepare for these potentially devastating events,” said Kate Hession, Operational Support Director for Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Rosapepe believes state agencies must plan for a changed environment that includes a future of more extreme weather.

“We have to catch up. Does that mean we have to buy more snowplows? Probably does. Hire more people to drive snowplows? Maybe it does,” Rosaepepe says.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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