Montgomery Co. response to historic snowstorm could cost millions

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Cleanup from last week’s historic snowstorm could cost Montgomery County millions of dollars but officials say it’s too soon to know the full price tag of clearing all that snow.

County Council President Nancy Floreen says a rule-of-thumb estimate is $1 million for every inch of snow that fell. In Montgomery County, the snow total came to 30 inches, according to Floreen.

“We were extremely fortunate that our residents remained safe and that we had no significant power outages,” Floreen said.

Floreen said there were about 100 complaints made to her office. But many others went to the county’s overwhelmed 311 line, and that generated complaints about the county’s communications during the storm.

While residents were frustrated at the time it took to clear to secondary roads and cul-de-sacs in neighborhoods, many more said they expected better results on the main roads in the county.

Floreen said many of those roads were not the county’s responsibility. “River Road, Georgia Avenue, 355-Rockville Pike of course, those are state roads.”

But Floreen said she was surprised to find Route 355 with just one plowed lane in some sections as late as Tuesday of last week. “I thought to myself, OK, I see that Rockville Lane is down to one lane in some places, I’m sure that will be fixed. And they didn’t come back.”

To many drivers trying to get back to work on Wednesday and Thursday, it looked like an incomplete job as many travel and turn lanes were still snow-covered forcing motorists to share a single lane.

David Buck, with the Maryland State Highway Administration, said that at a certain point, it was clear that the plowing couldn’t continue because there was nowhere to dump the snow.

So in those cases, Buck says, some contractors with plows were not called back in for shifts. Instead the emphasis was placed on getting the mountains of snow onto trucks for removal. In an email to WTOP, Buck explained:

“The one thing we have continued to stress, once we push that many tons of snow out of one or two lanes into a third lane, there is literally nowhere to put it. Using traditional plows that push snow was no longer viable. So yes, some contract crews were released, but any loaders and equipment we could use remained.”

Floreen says the council will discuss the failure of the county’s plow maps to accurately track where plows were and when neighborhoods could expect them along with the 311 call center’s performance during its Feb. 9 meeting.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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