County Executive Ike Leggett said it is now time for residents to clear snow from sidewalks in front of their homes, as required by County law on Wednesday.
On Monday, after a massive snow storm with accumulations greater than three feet, the County asked residents to clear snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes as possible. In that request, the County noted that any enforcement for now of sidewalk snow removal would be reasonable and follow common sense. Under County law, residents are required to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice within 24 hours of the end of the storm.
"Now, four days after the storm, our streets are passable and being improved," said Leggett. "Soon schoolchildren will be returning to school. For those who have already cleared their walks, I say ‘Thank you.’ For those who haven’t, now is the time – about 90 hours after the storm passed."
"This is important so that schoolchildren are not walking in the street, so that seniors can get where they need to go, and so that all pedestrians and commuters using Ride On and Metro can get around safely."
"I urge people to finish clearing their sidewalks now," said Leggett. "The County will begin accepting complaints on Thursday at 10:00 am; those complaints can be filed online at the mc311 website."
While residents must clear their sidewalks, both the County and the State are also under pressure to clear sidewalks and walkways along County roads and State highways. Many area corners are piled high with heavy wet compacted snow making it almost impossible to traverse and forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets, often on busy area roads like Germantown Road and Great Seneca Highway.
However, it can be confusing as to what government agency is responsible for clearing which sidewalk, according to Josh Faust, the Public Outreach Manager for the Montgomery County Division of Highway Services. It could be county, state, or federal responsibility, or board of education responsibility, or it could be the responsibility of private citizens or businesses. “It’s a quagmire of responsibility,” he said.
“That’s a tricky question,” said Faust, “We handle some sidewalks. The state handles others. We are starting to clear out some high pedestrian/high volume sidewalks, but it is going to be an extended effort. We’ve started clearing some areas already and these efforts will continue. However, the vast majority of sidewalks are still the responsibility of the property owners.”
In February of 2015, the Montgomery County Council enacted a bill sponsored by Councilmember At-Large Hans Riemer, which requires the County Executive and the Department of Transportation to develop, update, and publish on the County internet site a sidewalk snow removal plan allocating available resources in a fair and equitable manner throughout the County. However, the bill only requires a plan not that it be implemented.
As for the Blizzard of ’16, Faust said that the County has already started removing snow from some of those routes and will continue, but it a complicated and complex issue.
MCFRS reminds residents that shoveling, while necessary, can be a strenuous activity and offers some tips to shovel your sidewalks and remain healthy.
Limit shoveling to only a few minutes at a time, shovel smaller amounts and take frequent breaks. Listen to your body and STOP if you feel pain or experience any warning signs of a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack may include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, nausea as well as shoulder, neck and arm pain. Call 911 immediately if you believe you are having a medical emergency. If using a snow blower, keep hands and feet away from the motor and moving parts.
Even if you're just outside your home, keep a cell phone with you in case of emergency (such as a fall, cardiac emergency, etc.). With windows and doors closed, people inside the home may not be able to hear cries for help.
Slips and falls are winter's most common injuries. Use sand, salt or an ice-melt on walkways. Shovel your sidewalk and walkways. And use patience and caution when walking: take smaller steps and keep your center of gravity over your feet.
1. Warm up before any physical activity
2. Keep up with the storm
3. Push don’t lift
4. Dress in layers
5. Wear good boots
6. Stay hydrated
Top: Residents are to remove snow from sidewalks on private property 24 hours after the last snowfall of a storm.
Next: The State and County must also remove mountains of snow from corners of intersections, such as this one at Germantown Road and Dawson Farm Road, to make them passable for pedestrians so that people will no longer have to walk in the street.
Next: Pedestrians forced to walk in the traffic lanes of Germantown Road at the intersection of Wistira Road.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.