WASHINGTON – Maryland State Police, road crews and emergency managers haven’t dealt with a major winter storm in several years, but they said they are ready to handle the worse.
“Some of our crews are anxious for snow,” said Kelly Boulware, spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration.
A storm that was expected to move into the state late Wednesday night could be the first in what forecasters are predicting will be an active storm season.
That is fine with state officials, who are ready to put a new battery of snow-fighting machinery to the test after years of meager snowfalls.
Boulware said the State Highway Administration bought 10 wing plows this year, huge attachments extending the reach of snowplows. The plows, which were supposed to have been the first of many, have been deployed across the state.
Automatic de-icing machines that were installed on Interstate 68 bridges in Garrett and Allegany counties could also get their first use if the storm develops. The radio-activated machines spray a chemical de-icer on the highway and keep doing so to keep the road surface clear.
The agency also has 246,000 tons of salt on hand and as many as 2,400 people available to help with any snow and ice problems on Maryland roads.
“Whatever Mother Nature brings, we’ll be prepared for it,” Boulware said.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service said it is unusual for the state to get appreciable snowfall this early in December — and it is not likely to be the last snowfall of the year.
Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that effects from El Nino would cause more winter storms this season. Thursday’s predicted storm is evidence of the weather phenomenon, said Jim Decarufel, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Sterling, Va.
“The way the general pattern looks, this storm fits right in,” Decarufel said.
As of Wednesday, the storm did not look like a record-breaker, he said.
“We’ve seen storms like these in the past and we’ll have storms like this in the future,” he said.
Maryland State Police were not planning to ask officers to work extra shifts Wednesday, but officials said that could change depending on the snowfall.
“We may call out some people if the snow becomes a problem late into the day,” said Sgt. Thornnie Rouse, a state police spokesman. “My experience has been if the snow starts overnight, we won’t really have any problems.”
An official with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, the state’s coordinating body during an emergency, said the agency was keeping an eye on the storm and is ready to provide assistance to local jurisdictions in case it turned bad.
“It’s our job to help them get through it,” said spokesman Quentin Banks.