Road crews were expected to be heading out around 8 p.m. Monday in time for the snow expected to start.
Carroll County government and State Highway Administration workers spent Monday preparing for the largest snowstorm of the winter, pretreating roads before a system that is expected to blanket the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions today.
Jeff Castonguay, the county's public works director, said road crews were expected to be heading out around 8 p.m. Monday in time for the anticipated start of the snowstorm.
The National Weather Service was predicting snow would start after 7 p.m. Monday, mixing with sleet after 2 a.m. Snow and sleet accumulation was predicted to reach 5 to 9 inches Monday night and continue overnight into Tuesday, when Carroll County could see another 4 to 8 inches.
By about 3:45 p.m. Monday, county government had already closed Tuesday. At about 7:30 p.m. Monday, Carroll County Public Schools announced that county schools would also be closed Tuesday.
Snow could be heavy after midnight and into the early morning hours, Castonguay said. They were hearing at times it could hit 2 inches per hour, he said.
There are 63 county snow routes, and it takes about eight hours to complete each route, Castonguay said. If the snow gets too heavy, they'll have to pull crews off the road.
"When it gets to blizzard conditions, even we can't get on the roads," he said.
The county hopes to get through all of the major roads and initial routes by the start of the morning commute, Castonguay said.
"It could be a little dicey for a while," he said. "We will get everybody. We'll have all hands on deck."
Charlie Gischler, a spokesperson for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said workers began treating the roads in advance of the storm starting on Sunday, pretreating each of the numbered roads throughout the county. With the roads pretreated, workers spent most of the day Monday preparing for their routes, so they could be ready as soon as the first flake fell.
With snow primarily in the forecast, Gischler said the team could focus primarily on plowing numbered state routes in Carroll, without worrying about sleet and freezing rain.
"One good thing that's going to happen once we start making some significant progress is that the sun angle is so steep, that it'll be heating up the pavement," Gischler said. "That will help with getting the snow off the pavement."
Tuesday, he said, the primary mission is to open up at least one passable lane on each of their roads, as well as clearing the drainage ditches to prevent melted snow from pooling and creating icy patches. He said the hope is to have 99.9 percent of all roads open by Thursday.
In addition to preparing to clear the snow, Gischler said they are also preparing wood chippers and chainsaws to help deal with the trees and limbs that may be brought down by the heavy, wet snow and high winds.
This week's snowstorm, coming in the last week of the 2016-17 winter, is expected to be the only significant snowfall of the season.
So far, Carroll County has spent $860,000 on snow removal, costs that are budgeted into the Storm Emergencies budget, said Ted Zaleski, the county's director of Management and Budget. The county budgeted $2.1 million for Fiscal Year 2017.
In FY16, the county spent $2.4 million, Zaleski said. Salt cost $883,000, overtime $527,000, and contractual trucks and heavy equipment rentals $904,000.
Zaleski said he didn't have the official breakdown of what went into the $860,000 spent so far this year, though he said the county has been out putting salt on roads and also had equipment out a few times for smaller snowfalls earlier this winter.
How much the county spends isn't necessarily related to how much snow there is, he said. The county could get one-half inch or 4 inches, Zaleski said, but it would still mean resources are used.
"If you have to bring everyone out, and put down salt and take time," that costs money, he said.
Any money out of the operating budget at the end of the year becomes part of surplus, Zaleski said. This includes what's designated toward snow.
"Money that's left over in [the snow budget] is no different than any other money," he said.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners then appropriates those funds to other budget items in the future, he added.
While this is expected to be the first big snow, Castonguay said county staff has snow plans "down to a science." They do learn from each storm, though, he said.
Carroll County government made some changes after last year. Specifically, they learned to get contractors secured as soon as possible. During the 2016 blizzard, other counties called some of the contractors before they did, Castonguay said, so Carroll had limited crews at its disposal.
Castonguay said for those who can, they ask people to park in their driveways and keep vehicles off the road.
"It slows down the operation," he said, when plows and trucks have to try to avoid parked vehicles. Castonguay also said it's important for people to be careful throughout the storm. It's important not to rush during snow removal or overexert, he said.
"That's the priority — to keep everybody safe," Castonguay said.