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Maryland snow: Inside Baltimore's emergency operations center Tuesday

In the operations center Tuesday morning, Derek Proctor traded off between his radio and his cellphone, taking down updates on which streets were plowed and which weren't, then calling inspectors and contractors to address problem areas.

Proctor, a construction project supervisor with the Department of Transportation, is part of a large team made up of many different city agencies that works 12-hour shifts at the Calvert Street building during snow days. As the mayor convenes briefings with her staff and news conferences to update the public, Proctor and a handful of colleagues sit in cubicles nearby, meticulously gathering the ground-level information on the progress from the drivers.

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During this week's storm, that meant overseeing 42 inspectors, and 275 vehicles operated by 19 contractor companies.

"This is nothing," Proctor said, checking the Weather Channel's website between calls. "Freezing rain we can manage. When it's a blizzard, you get city council members calling, people pulling their hair out."

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Baltimore crews Tuesday morning were prepared for 6-8 inches of snow, and instead saw day break with about an inch of snow on the ground — which, mixed with rain, created slush and ice on city streets.

An inspector's voice crackled over Proctor's radio, reporting on the movements of one contractor's plow.

"He's doing a great job, but he's not applying any salt," the inspector called over the radio.

"You can go ahead and chase him down and ask him why he's not applying salt," Proctor replied.

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"Copy that," came the reply.

A large, laminated white map behind Proctor showed the city broken down into more than 100 sections with a red erasable marker. A corresponding map projected onto a screen in the conference room showed most sectors of the city had been plowed at least once, if not two or three times, as of Tuesday morning. Two others showed the locations of the city's fire stations and dialysis centers.

For the most part, city crews are responsible for plowing the primary streets,

Proctor said, and contractors are hired to clear the secondary streets.

Most main roads had been cleared at least once by roughly 8:30 a.m., but smaller neighborhood ones were taking longer to reach. Those already had been plowed were slowly being covered with a new layer of rain, sleet and snow as the day wore on.

"The secondary streets — they could use a shot of salt," one inspector radioed in.
In the control room across the hall, dozens of police, fire department, emergency management, BGE, and other department personnel kept tabs on the various 911 calls coming in and monitored the roads using the CitiWatch closed-circuit cameras. Fewer cars were on the road due to many businesses and institutions closing or allowing liberal leave, so the emergency call volume was down, said Anthony Smith, a office of emergency management supervisor.

In the conference room, cameras were focused on Light and Conway streets, the Jones Falls Expressway at Northern Parkway and North Avenue, and the Hanover Street Bridge. Following a news conference, Pugh sat at the head of the table with her chief of staff, Tisha Edwards; Frank Murphy, the acting transportation director; David McMillan, the deputy director in the Office of Emergency Management; and Anthony McCarthy, her spokesman.

"Things are going well, but we're not out of the woods yet," McMillan told her.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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