Aberdeen, Havre de Grace, Cecil towns dig out

Communities in western Cecil and eastern Harford counties spent Wednesday getting back to business after Tuesday's storm, but the process was slower for some communities than others.

The storm, which began Monday evening and lasted into Tuesday morning, dropped between four and six inches of what was at first was extremely wet snow, often mixed with sleet.

As temperatures fell throughout the day Tuesday – into the low 20s after nightfall – and wind gusts picked up, roads froze and tree limbs and power lines came down in several places, cutting off electricity to some neighborhoods served by either BGE or Delmarva Power.

By Wednesday afternoon, however, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace roads were clear, and public works crews were spending their days cleaning up piles of snow, clearing intersections and crosswalks and hitting streets that may have been missed, the cities' public works directors said.

They both faced the same challenge: downed tree limbs and branches on roads and on power lines.

Havre de Grace had about 5 inches of snow, which wasn't a problem for public works employees. The challenge they faced, DPW Director Tim Whittie said, was downed branches from the wind, pine trees especially.

"The new dog park up on the hill was wiped out by trees," Whittie said. The park is near the Havre de Grace Community Center.

Cable lines and power lines were also knocked down because of falling branches, mostly from white pines, he said.

Harford County Public Schools were closed both Tuesday and Wednesday. The days will be made up on June 7 and 8, with classes now slated to end June 9, and HCPS spokesperson said.

In Aberdeen, DPW Director Kyle Torster said tree cleanup took time and effort away from snow and ice removal.

"As a result of the icing, we had to divert our workforce to address those issues that arose," Torster said.

Among those emergencies were some sewer main backups, none that were significant, he said, but things that happened and needed to be dealt with.

Power outages throughout Aberdeen also affected the water treatment plants that support the Army and the city.

There were no compliance issues nor was service interrupted, but "it certainly did require staff to address those emergencies that occurred," Torster said.

'It wasn't as bad'

This storm was a very difficult one to tackle, Torster said, because what started as snow overnight then turned into rain and freezing rain the morning.

"Whatever pre-treatment we had done Monday, in essence we started from the bottom floor again," he said.

All the rain carried away the pre-treatment, "so we lost any ability to stay on top of whatever actions we had done overnight."

Havre de Grace, overall, made out "pretty well," Whittie said.

"We were looking at a lot more snow. I think we did well. It wasn't as bad as they were calling for," he said. "It's a big snow for us, because we're so small, but it's manageable, because we could get out in two shifts and minimal overtime.

Cleanup would have gone much smoother, he said, had the precipitation been all snow.

"Because it would have been easier to push, this was heavier. Cleanup is a lot different when it's frozen," he said. "It's like a rock. It's very difficult to remove the next day. It takes a lot more effort than if it had stayed white and fluffy."

Whittie gave kudos to his public works staff, who were working in two shifts of 12 people to clear 47 miles of roads in the city.

"They do a really good job," Whittie said. "I'm really proud of the men and women who work for me. They get the job done. They get the roads open and passable. They just do a great job."

Aberdeen public works director Kyle Torster echoed Whittie's sentiments, and also thanked the first responders as well as the city residents.

The fire department and BGE were very responsive during the storm, Torster said, noting a few emergencies the cropped up in addition to storm cleanup.

Aberdeen also residents made the cleanup easy.

"Thanks to the residents for heeding the warnings and staying off the roads," Torster said. "It made our jobs a lot easier without having to deal with people driving around."

Damage in Churchville

A Royal Farms store in Churchville, at the intersection of Route 22 and Route 155, was operating normally Wednesday, although minus a canopy for some of its gas pumps.

The canopy tipped over because of strong winds between 11:30 a.m. and noon Tuesday, according to Brittany Eldredge, public relations manger for the Baltimore-based Royal Farms.

Workers arrived quickly to remove the canopy, and a replacement should be installed in the next few weeks, Eldredge said.

"We are very happy that no one was hurt or was around it when it did tip over," she said.

The store and gas pumps were "fully functional" a couple of hours after the incident, according to Eldredge.

Across the Susquehanna

In Perryville, the Town Hall was closed because of repairs being made to the heating system, and other "non-essential" employees were on a two-hour delay Wednesday, according to a notice posted on the town website.

Perryville Community Park was closed as workers cleared snow, downed trees and limbs. The park was scheduled to re-open Thursday, according to the website.

Power was also knocked out at the town's wastewater treatment plant Tuesday, and the facility ran on standby generators until power was restored, Mayor Jim Eberhardt said.

The mayor noted public works crews did "an excellent job" keeping streets clear.

"There wasn't a single traffic accident in town," Eberhardt said, citing a report from the police department.

He said that is because public works kept the streets clear, plus motorists were either being "very cautious" or staying home.

A community forum on Amtrak's proposal to build a new Susquehanna River Rail Bridge — which would replace the aging span over the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville — had to be postponed from Wednesday evening to Thursday, March 23. The forum will start at 5 p.m. and will be at Perryville High School, according to the town website.

Things were operating normally in Perryville's neighbor to the north, Port Deposit, as the State Highway Administration kept the main thoroughfares, Center Street and Main Street, clear, and town public works staff kept the municipal streets clear, according to Town Administrator Vicky Rinkerman.

Town Hall was closed Tuesday, but it open for business Wednesday.

"Everything went fine," Rinkerman said. "We were very lucky this time."

Cecil County Public Schools were closed Tuesday and Wednesday. They remained closed a second day for students and 10-month employees "due to widespread power outages and road closures," according to a notice posted on the CCPS website. School system offices opened late at 10 a.m.

School officials plan to be open Thursday, CCPS spokesperson Kelly Keeton said Wednesday.

The Cecil County schools have been closed three times for inclement weather this year as of Wednesday — schools were also closed Feb. 9, according to Keeton and the website.

The makeup days are scheduled for next Monday and then Thursday, April 13 and Tuesday, May 20, Keeton said.

Power was out sporadically around Perryville Wednesday afternoon, along with widespread outages in the central and eastern parts of Cecil, according to Delmarva Power's online outage map.

There were no outages visible on the map in Delmarva Power's service area in northeastern Harford County.

About 900 customers in Cecil County still did not have power as of Wednesday afternoon, but service was expected to be restored to the majority of those customers by midnight, according to utility spokesperson Nicholas Morici.

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