Two Days After the Blizzard of ’16, Germantown Begins to Come Out of Hibernation
After getting snowed in for an entire weekend, Germantown area residents fought through the cabin fever only to come out the other side faced with the back-breaking prospect of digging out their cars and shoveling over 30-inches of white stuff left behind by the Blizzard of ’16.
While private citizens cleared vehicles, driveways, and sideways, snow removal teams from Montgomery County worked to clear the snow emergency roads, and main County arteries of snow. Some Germantown streets had been graced by a plow while still many others were still full of snow unspoiled by the plow.
Montgomery County Highway Services Division personnel worked round the clock of the Blizzard weekend to clear the more than 1,000 lane miles of County roads, before turning to the localized streets Monday morning. But by mid-day on Monday many local neighborhood streets remained packed with 30-inches of snow forcing residents to remain snowbound.
Germantown Pulse found numerous instances of neighborhood roads being untouched by snow removal equipment. Indeed, Germantown Pulse has been contacted by two communities that have not been plowed by the private contractors responsible for clearing snow. The Pulse continues to get reports from residents who have not seen a plow on their street.
Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Highway Services said “Crews have also begun plowing operations in neighborhoods. The initial objective for our 4,000 lane miles of neighborhood roads is to make them passable. Residents should not expect to see bare pavement on the first pass.”
“The County had some of the highest snow totals resulting from this storm. In Potomac, the National Weather Service reported snow totals of 38.5 inches, the third highest on the East Coast. Because of the quantity of snow, Highway Services crews are not only plowing, they are also removing snow -- not just in the central business districts as is typical -- but throughout the County from primary and emergency routes, intersections, and neighborhoods.”
A driving tour of the Germantown area during the noon hour on Monday showed that the main roads, both state, and county, were in pretty good shape. They were not completely cleared. Often they were just one lane in each direction. While the cleared lanes were free of snow, there was a four-foot pile of plowed snow in the right-most lane limiting motion and visibility, especially at corners.
On many of the main roads, snow removal teams were using front-end loaders and dump trucks to remove the snow and truck it away to another location. This operation was seen happening at Father Hurley Boulevard near the I-270 interchange and along Route 355/Frederick Road just north of Germantown Road.
Germantown – 5th District Police Commander David Gillespie said motorists should not expect business as usual on area roads for a few days. “Drivers must remember that they have to share whatever road is available, especially when you have two cars going in the opposite direction,” he said. “People need to be cognizant of the fact that it is icy, and you can’t stop like you can on normal pavement, and you have to control your speed. You have to drive slower and be cautious.”
Indeed, while roads were passable travel is still rife with hazards. Visibility at intersections is seriously curtailed by 12- to 15-foot snow piles and there is always the danger of a slushy or icy patch. Pedestrians are walking in the street, sometimes in the middle of the lane because the sidewalks or curbs are not cleared.
Some neighborhood roads were cleared all the way to the pavement while others remained snow covered, and some were left with a thin white layer of slippery snow and ice.
Dig Out at Schools Varies
Montgomery County Public Schools will remain closed tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 26 as schools continue to dig out from the Blizzard of ’16.
The Pulse’s driving tour showed that progress differs widely from school to school. Shortly before noon on Monday, Northwest High School looked to be completely plowed and shoveled out and ready for classes, while Seneca Valley High School showed only a small hastily plowed lane to the main entrance with almost no attention given to the parking lot, the same was true of Neelsville Middle School.
While, on the elementary school level, Sally Ride and Germantown seemed like they might be ready for students tomorrow, but Capt. Daly Elementary School was going to require the additional day to clear the parking lots and sidewalks. Granted this is a small sample of Germantown elementary schools.
If you can get out of your neighborhood, there are places that you can go. Milestone Shopping Center is open for business. Crews continue to haul snow out of the parking lot in dump trucks, but the parking lot remains littered with large snow mountains.
Local businesses are opening after suffering through a weekend of lost income. The timing of this storm could not have been worse for small local businesses, especially independent restaurants and retailers.
“This happening on a Friday and into Saturday is just brutal,” said Phil Burleson, owner of Agrodolce in Milestone. “We stayed open until about 3:30 and had to call it. But when you lose Friday night and all day Saturday – those are our two biggest days of the week, and yesterday was impossible.”
Agrodolce was open today, as were a number of restaurants in the Milestone shopping center. Burleson said a weekend snowstorm like this can be a killer small businesses. “Every year we have to struggle through it. I hate January and February, every year. It is hard to come back from a weekend like this. It takes about a month of good weather weekends to get back to where we are not feeling the financial hurt from a weekend like this,” he said.
“We are lucky that we have an established business and loyal customers, but if we were new or just a little bit slower. It would kill us, and I don’t know if we’d make it through,” said Burleson.
Top: Main roads such as Century Boulevard in the Central Business District of Germantown are in good shape.
Next: The big dig out awaited many residents.
Next: Crews continue to clear snow using front loaders and dump trucks to haul the snow away, as this crew is doing on Father Hurley Drive just north of I-270.
Next: Many roads, including Virginia Pine Drive, which is off Seneca Crossing Drive in the Germantown area are untouched by plows and still have more than 30-inches of snow on the roadway surfaces.
Next: Tall Cedar Way in Germantown was unplowed on Monday morning after the Blizzard of ’16.
Next: Some neighborhood, such as Stardrift Drive roads are plowed down to a thin, slick layer of snow.
Next: Even main roads have hazards, many are reduced to one lane, as evidenced here on southbound Route 355 as it approaches Father Hurley Boulevard near the Milestone.
Next: Another hazard on the main roads are high mountains and with very little visibility such as these steep cliffs on Crystal Rock Drive at Father Hurley Boulevard.
Next: It will require a lot of work to get Seneca Valley High School ready to receive students on Wednesday morning.
Next: But, Northwest High School looks as though it could open for classes tomorrow morning.
Next: There are restaurants open for business even if they are hidden behind huge piles of snow, such as Agrodolce in the Milestone Shopping Center.
Next: Drivers must also be on the lookout for pedestrians sometimes walking in the middle of an already snow narrowed road, like these folks on Great Seneca Highway near Dawson Farm Road.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.