Harford County grinds through more bitter cold, first snow of 2018

Landscape worker Jose Amaya wore a hooded jacket, knitted face mask that left only his eyes uncovered, and heavy gloves Thursday morning as he used a leaf blower to clear snow from the sidewalk along North Hickory Avenue in Bel Air.

His co-workers wore similar gear to protect themselves against temperatures in the low 20s. A stiff wind made the morning even colder, as the crew worked on and around the campus of Saint Margaret Parish, clearing and salting sidewalks.

The first snow of 2018 was a light one, about an inch or two across the county.

“Hace frio,” Amaya said, using the Spanish phrase for “it’s cold.”

He expressed an upbeat attitude despite the bitter weather, since he was still able to work Thursday, Amaya said.

Renato Buontempo, owner of the Main Street Tower restaurant in downtown Bel Air, braved the cold with a co-worker to move the components of a space heater, which had been used in the restaurant during New Year’s celebrations, into an SUV so they could be returned.

“I feel cold, but the best thing that happened to me — my wife got me these earmuffs,” he said, pointing out his black ear protectors.

He said he uses a remote starter for his car, so it is warm by the time he gets behind the wheel.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the interior of the Tower’s enclosed second story, which Buontempo expects to be open by early February, he said.

“I feel bad for people that have to work outside in this kind of weather,” Buontempo said. “They should all be off.”

Harford County has not experienced, so far, the type of snow that fell farther east — up to 10 inches fell on Maryland’s Eastern Shore as of Thursday morning, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Harford County Public Schools were closed Thursday, though, after an initial announcement that schools would open two hours late.

The school system also decided to open two hours late on Friday with no morning pre-K.

Few people were out and about in downtown Bel Air during the late morning Thursday. Those who were walked quickly, bundled up in heavy coats, hats and scarves.

Harford County highways crews went out at 1 a.m. Thursday to treat 1,000 miles of county-maintained roads. The majority were wet and clear to the black pavement as of noon, although some had been covered by windblown and, drifting snow and ice, according to county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby.

Highway workers protect themselves against the cold with heavy reflective yellow jackets, gloves, hats and boots, Mumby said.

“Our crews work very hard to keep the roads safe,” she said.

Mumby said county leaders “always urge citizens to slow down, take time to be cautious in this sort of weather so that everyone arrives where they need to go.” She said motorists should be on the lookout for ice.

“Just because the road looks clear doesn’t mean that there might not be ice, so please be careful,” Mumby said.

One major area traffic accident was reported Thursday around 1 p.m., when a tractor-trailer overturned in the southbound lanes of the Interstate 95 Tydings Memorial Bridge between Harford and Cecil counties.

Maryland State Police reported on Twitter that the bridge, which was under wind restrictions, was closed in both directions while the accident was being investigated and cleared. No serious injuries were reported.

Northbound lanes re-opened at approximately 2:45 p.m., but the Susquehanna Hose Company of Havre de Grace, which responded to the crash, reported on Twitter that detour routes like Route 40 and the Hatem Bridge were jammed.

State Police later reported via Twitter that all lanes in both directions were re-opened by 4 p.m.

As of late Thursday morning, water and sewer staff had responded to about a dozen calls for service regarding frozen water meters, Mumby said. There were no reports of water main breaks, she said.

Harford County has about 40,000 water customers, according to Mumby.

“We go out with a space heater and help thaw the meter so that it works properly,” she said.

Anybody who has a water or sewer issue can call 410-612-1612 to report it or use the You CLICK We FIX app, available for download online at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/782/Water-Sewer.

The county also has a winter weather guide online, one of a series of emergency preparedness guides the county publishes. The winter weather guide is at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/1979/Winter-Weather.

Tips include dressing in layers of loose-fitting clothes, avoid over-exerting yourself when outside, as cold “puts an added strain on the heart,” refueling kerosene heaters outside and away from flammable items and running generators outside — generators should never be run inside a garage or house, according to the guide.

More tips have been posted on the Harford County government page on Facebook, such as avoiding frozen pipes by turning off water leading to outdoor faucets, insulating exposed pipes, allowing an “extremely slow drip” from interior faucets and opening the doors of cabinets around pipes in the kitchen and bathroom.

“Part of what we are here to do is to help people stay safe and get through the weather and other kinds of emergencies,” Mumby said.

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