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February 22, 2010

Campaign Diary Dealing With The Snow

Michael Kurtianyk

February 9 – More Snow – With the prediction of 10-to-20 more inches of snow, I decided that now, more than ever, the snow removal people and salt distributers deserve our utmost respect. Having put in long hours already, the group has only a day or two to rest, check in with things at home, and then return for more work.


Forecasters are predicting that this next one will be a bad storm. We’ll see, but I admire what the Frederick County staff and contractors have done.


I had lunch today with a local lawyer and colleague at Acacia. If you haven’t been to Acacia recently, you should make an effort to do so. The new chef there has done a great job with the menu items – the quality of the food and the presentation is excellent.


That being said, the lunch itself was informative, as my pressing question to local leaders is: What do you see as the top issue in Frederick County? Time and again, it comes back to the county budget deficit and the creation of more jobs.


Our discussion also led to some insights about the county commissioner race and who would likely be running. We speculated that based on the number of Republican candidates who sought the seat vacated by Charles Jenkins; there would be plenty of candidates on the GOP side who would enter this year’s election. On the Democrat side, it is still too early to tell. Should be fun to watch.


February 10 – Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow – So this is what they call a whopper of a storm! The roads are impassable, and there’s no reason for anyone to be going out, unless it’s the snow emergency crews. The winds have been howling and the drifts are increasing by the hour. It reminded me of a typical January day in Syracuse, NY, where I grew up. A day like today, I like to joke, would warrant only a two-hour delay of schools! Ha, ha.


This reminded me of something that the Syracuse Common Council did in the Spring of 1992. At the time, Syracuse experienced a record seasonal snowfall amount of 162.5 inches. So, on March 30, the Common Council unanimously approved the following resolution:


"Be it resolved, on behalf of the snow-weary citizens of the city of Syracuse, any further snowfall is expressly outlawed in the city of Syracuse until December 24, 1992."


It didn’t work, because two more inches of snow fell the next day. The following winter season was the snowiest ever recorded in Syracuse: 192.2 inches.


Mind you, there are other places in the country that receive more snow, but not many cities with a population of over 100,000. I remember when I was growing up that there was even an expectation that the snow would be removed. In Frederick County, there is an expectation that the main streets would be plowed, but that the citizens would have to work together to take care of the sidewalks. However, it will likely take a long time to get out from under all this snow. Frederick County Public Schools did well to close schools all week.


One interesting thing about the comparison between Syracuse and Frederick is that the airport snow removal is done in a unique way. Due to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, salt is not allowed to be put down on the runways. At Syracuse’s Hancock International, there are large sweepers and snow blowers, which wouldn’t work on city streets. Also, there are small wheels mounted under the airport plows, to keep the plows from touching the runways. This also helps keep the blades from hitting the runway lights.


Online social media like Twitter and Facebook have done a great job with keeping everyone updated as to the weather conditions. The pictures are at once beautiful and scary, what with all of the fallen snow and icicles. We learned of children digging tunnels and building forts throughout the county, trying to make the best of a bad situation. We saw empty shelves at area grocery stores, as residents purchased what they deemed necessary. Many of us spent the days rescheduling meetings, hoping that we could meet after the snow subsided.


I was able to catch up on the volumes of reading materials given to me by various people on various topics. I was able to contact people via email and cell phone, creating virtual meetings during the storm.


February 11 – State of Emergency – The City of Frederick and the county declared a state of emergency. This allowed the activation of the county’s Emergency Operations Plans, which includes the restriction of travel on county roads. This was a good decision. No one should be out in this weather, unless it’s an emergency.


However, I heard stories of the shopping malls being open, as well as restaurants and other businesses. It occurred to me that maybe the shops shouldn’t be open. Are businesses necessary? Is it essential that McDonald’s be open? It was hard to reconcile. Why make employees come to work, when no one is supposed to go out in this weather?


Then we lost power at our house. In our neighborhood, all of the homes lost power for eight hours. So, I thought again about the state of emergency and the notion of unnecessary travel. Not knowing how long the power would be out, it would be necessary for us to go out somewhere to eat. So maybe the businesses and restaurants should be open, even in a state of emergency.


I heard a story about the officer who pulled up to a driver stuck in a snowbank. When asked what he was doing out during the state of emergency, he replied: “I just wanted to see what it was like.” Deeming this unnecessary travel, the officer gave the driver a ticket.


February 12 – Winter Olympics – It should come as no surprise that the Opening Ceremonies for this year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver was viewed by an estimated 32.6 million viewers, according to the Nielsen ratings. This is up 48 percent from the number who watched the Opening Ceremonies in Turin in 2006. We didn’t have a blizzard then, as I recall. We had nothing else to do anyway.


February 13 – Venturing out – I took my wife Brenda and our girls to the Market Street Bagel shop for breakfast. It was our first time out driving from Middletown through the city streets. Brenda asked me to drive near her school, Lincoln Elementary, where she teaches. The density of Frederick City meant that the snow could not be put in some corner or street end. The roads weren’t plowed fully. There were grooves in the roads where vehicles traveled, not unlike the grooves made by the cross-country skiers in the Olympics. It was safer to follow the roads most traveled rather than the backstreets.


Brenda took the girls to the C. Burr Artz Library while I stayed behind to talk to other writers of this site. I must say that it was a good decision by the Frederick County Library System to forgive fines on materials due during this storm.


February 18 – Back to School – It was a good decision by the Frederick County Schools to open two hours late this morning. I did not know how bad the roads were in a lot of the outlying areas, but the skies seemed to clear up and the crews were allowed more time to widen the roads. With days needing to be made up, we won’t have many days off between now and the end of the school year. This will be tough on those families who have made vacation plans for early April and right after the previously-scheduled June closing date. There will be quite a bit of upset and juggling of schedules.


I did hear we’re getting another storm next week. Oh boy….


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