Laurel government closes, snow emergency declared

Laurel city offices closed around 11:30 a.m. due to ongoing snow and hazardous road conditions, officials announced on the city’s Facebook page.

“The road conditions were deteriorating, so we wanted to make sure our employees could get home safely and that people wouldn’t come out trying to conduct business on a day like today,” said Audrey Barnes, a spokeswoman for the city.

Fourteen plows are working to clear city streets, but workers are having to stop repeatedly to help motorists whose cars are stuck in snowdrifts, Barnes said.

“We have had a lot of people getting stuck on the road,” she said. “We want to make sure people just stay home so the people running the plows don’t have to stop to get them out.”

As sidewalks fill with snow, pedestrians have started walking in the roads, posing an extra hazard to plows, according to Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe.

“A lot of businesses are closing or not open, so we encourage people to call first. Hopefully, they’ve been prepared and were ready for this storm, and don’t really need to be out and about,” he said. “There’s always those who want to get out and walk the streets and it does cause problems. We really don’t want people getting hit.”

Wednesday’s snow wasn’t on the level of the back-to-back storms in 2010, when Laurel was buried under 49 inches of snow — but it was still severe, Moe said.

“It’s a heavy snow. It packs. And when it packs on the streets and sidewalks, it becomes very slippery,” he said. “People need to be very, very cautious when they’re out and about, and should stay off the roads as much as possible.”

Still, some businesses remained open as of noon. Managers at All Tune & Lube had opened at 8:15 a.m. planning to use the day to catch up on outstanding work, but had patrons pop in as well.

“One of our customers had hit a curb and had a flat tire,” said Eric Ayub, a manager. “We were able to get him back on the road and ready for work tomorrow.”

Ayub had left the store to pick up parts from suppliers, all of whom were also open, he said.

Employees are free to leave if the conditions worsen, he added.

“But we’re open and it seems to be OK. It’s a catch-up day more than anything else,” he said. “And if you can hear, our phones are still ringing.”

The second day of spring dawned in Laurel with snow on the ground, more falling from the sky and weather forecasters calling for 3 to 7 inches of additional accumulation.

Despite the deluge, city offices opened on time, with liberal leave in effect for employees, according to the city’s Twitter account.

“The City of Laurel has done a partial opening of our Emergency Operations Center,” officials wrote on Twitter. “Mayor Craig Moe, Emergency Manager Steve Allen and Laurel Police Department's Lt. Hamilton are at the helm keeping an eye on the weather and streets.”

The mayor declared a snow emergency beginning at 9:30 a.m. “to help keep roads clear to facilitate access to residences and business by emergency personnel and to allow Public Works to treat street surfaces,” according to a city news release.

During a snow emergency, parking is prohibited on the even-numbered side of designated city snow emergency routes. Cars parked illegally along those routes can be ticketed, towed and impounded, per the release.

City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Half a mile away, Sip at C Street opened 90 minutes late, at 8 a.m. By 8:30, the coffee shop had already served one customer seeking a caffeine fix.

“In a business like ours, I value consistency,” said Joe Valentino, the shop’s general manager. “Even opening a little bit late is not my preference. I feel like as a community gathering place, it's important, whenever possible, without jeopardizing anybody's safety, to be available and open.”

Valentino commutes from Annapolis, part of the reason for the morning’s delay, he said.

“It was safer for me to open up a little bit late,” he said. “But since people are already probably not going into work, it wasn’t going to be beneficial for us to be open at 6:30.”

Traffic, he added, was lighter than normal on the way in.

“There were fewer people on the roads than are typical,” he said.

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