4 feet, but in snowy Garrett, who's counting?


Garrett County residents took the weekend's storm in stride - despite what is believed to be a record-setting 4 feet of snow.

State highway officials, who for years have measured snowfall at Keysers Ridge, recorded 49.5 inches. The National Weather Service put the total for the county at 48 inches, based on a reading in Oakland. Authorities said they know of no other winter storm producing as much snowfall there.

Nevertheless, life was returning to normal yesterday. Businesses reopened, and county officials said all major state routes were "passable."

Brad Frantz, director of the Garrett County Office of Emergency Management, said people who live in Western Maryland are better prepared to deal with heavy snow than those who reside in other parts of the state.

"People tend to be pretty self-sufficient in terms of being prepared to be on their own for a time," he said. "Many people have four-wheel-drive vehicles and can get themselves out."

Still, Frantz conceded that "a 4-foot storm is certainly out of the ordinary."

Emergency crews used a snowmobile to get heart medicine to an elderly man in an isolated area in the southeastern part of the county, he said. And the weight of the snow collapsed the roofs of a county storage building and a farm building.

Ginny Umbel, who lives near Friendsville on the county's far western edge, said shoulder-high drifts kept her from opening her door. She managed to get out through a sliding-glass door. The area she shoveled by the main entrance is "sort of like a tunnel," Umbel said.

It wasn't quite business as usual, but the Denny's restaurant in Oakland, the county seat, reopened shortly before 2 p.m. yesterday. Manager Judy Miller said she used her four-wheel-drive vehicle to pick up a skeleton staff. Snow had forced the restaurant to close early, at 8 p.m., on Sunday.

Miller said getting out of her driveway was difficult, but she was determined to get the restaurant open as soon as possible.

"You have the state highway men and the people with Allegany Power," she said. "They all need to eat."

Naylor's True Value Hardware in Oakland opened yesterday at the usual 7:30 a.m. Cashier Lisa McCartney said she was surprised at how many customers came in. Some were looking for shovels or snowblowers, but the store had sold out.

County residents are used to dealing with snow, she said. "But it's time now where we're getting sick of it."

Del. George C. Edwards, a Garrett County Republican, said state roads were in good shape.

"The problem is some of the back roads that are a lot narrower. They are running out of places to put the snow," he said.

But people were finding ways to get around.

"I'd sooner be up here with 48 inches of snow than down there [in the Baltimore area] with a half a foot of snow," Edwards said. "They don't know how to drive in it down there."

The snow that turned roads dangerous made for prime powder skiing at area resorts.

"It's perfect conditions," said Martin McGreal, chief financial officer of Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort.

But only a relatively small number of skiers were able to take advantage. McGreal said there were hundreds fewer skiers and snowboarders on the slopes than Wisp officials had predicted for yesterday.

"A lot of people up here for the weekend are having trouble getting to the mountain," he said.

Altogether, Garrett County has gotten more than 200 inches of snow this winter, said Paul McIntyre, the county's state highway supervisor.

"It looks like Siberia," he said.

Since the first major snow hit Oct. 29, his crew - 21 state trucks and 35 hired trucks - has been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, McIntyre said.

"It's a constant operation."

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