County Officials Defend Snow Plowing Operation After Historic Snowstorm

County Officials Defend Snow Plowing Operation After Historic Snowstorm

County Executive Ike Leggett said he's pleased with overall snow plowing effort, though he understands frustrations of those who are still snowed in

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Ike Leggett speaks to reporters Tuesday afternoon at the county's depot in Rockville

Aaron Kraut

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett on Tuesday afternoon pledged that all county roads will have at least one lane clear of snow by 7 a.m. Wednesday and said the county’s snow plowing and removal effort is among the best of any jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C., area.

“If you look around Montgomery County and compare it to other places around the region, you’ll see the difference in terms of our ability to remove snow,” Leggett said at a press conference held at the county Department of Transportation’s depot on Seven Locks Road in Rockville.

Department of Transportation Acting Director Al Roshdieh said the county had about 870 pieces of snow plowing and removal equipment on the roads Tuesday. Most of those, about 600, were operated by private contractors the county has called in to deal with anywhere from 18 to 39 inches of snow.

“This is by far, and I’ve been living in this community for 40 years, this is by far more snow in one event than I have ever remembered in this community and I think the National Weather Service supports that,” Roshdieh said. “So we are working very, very hard. I know that some people are not happy that they haven’t been able to get out.”

The county’s 311 call center received a record number of calls Tuesday from residents frustrated that their neighborhoods were still unplowed.

The county’s Twitter handle for its Highway Services division, which is in charge of snow plowing, has been inundated with complaints and requests for plow trucks to come to specific neighborhood streets.

“I get why they feel that way,” Leggett said of frustrated residents. “Keep in mind, 40 inches of snow, 5,000 lane miles, having to haul off the snow from our urban areas, and I’m standing before you and saying we will have made a path in every neighborhood by 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. How many jurisdictions are able to stand here and make that commitment?”

County officials said they weren’t caught off-guard by the storm and made it clear from the start that snow clearing could take days and require more than the 500 pieces of equipment that were ready to go Friday.

Roshdieh said the county’s standard timeline to complete snow plowing operations after a 24-inch snowstorm is 60 hours after the storm has started.

“This is not 24 inches. This is almost 40 inches,” Roshdieh said.

Leggett did say the county’s live snow operations map, which shows which streets have been cleared or are “in progress,” could’ve provided more details to viewers about what “in progress” means.

Leggett said that if any resident’s street doesn’t have at least one passable lane by 7 a.m. Wednesday, the resident should call the county’s 311 center. The snow plowing operations will continue until streets are clear.

Leggett said he didn’t know Tuesday how much the snow removal operations would cost. Last week, he predicted the cost would be more than the county had budgeted for the winter. Last winter, the county spent $9.1 million on snow removal and other storm clean-up operations, according to the county’s budget website.

On Tuesday night, crews are set to continue hauling away snow from the Bethesda central business district. Front-end loaders and dump trucks worked through the night Monday into Tuesday, gathering already plowed snow and dumping it into dump trucks.

Richard Dorsey, chief of Highway Services, said the county starts snow removal in its central business districts of Bethesda, Wheaton and Silver Spring once a storm dumps 18 inches or more of snow.

Dorsey said the county is dumping the snow at five county facilities.

The county’s plow truck drivers have been working around the clock since Sunday.

“Trust me, they haven’t been home to clear their driveways or get a good night’s sleep,” Dorsey said.

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