Blizzard dumps nearly 2 feet of snow on western Sussex

By Lynn R. Parks

Leaders in both Laurel and Seaford say that their towns made out well in the weekend storm that dumped 2 feet of snow on western Sussex. But they acknowledge that the costs of removing snow from the streets and, in Seaford's case, of getting power restored could create a burden for the towns. "Our employees had a significant amount of overtime," said Laurel Mayor John Shwed. About a half dozen people worked through the weekend, he added, clearing snow from the town's streets. "Of course, we have no extra money in the budget to pay for that overtime," Shwed said. He hopes that Gov. Markel's state of emergency declaration will enable the town to qualify for some reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Seaford city manager Dolores Slatcher is also hopeful that her town will qualify for federal reimbursement. "There likely could be a chance for us to get some of our money back," she said. "We are collecting all of our costs and will send them in." Slatcher could not estimate how much the city spent in overtime. She did say that the cost to the city of this storm will definitely be more than that of an earlier storm this winter, after which the city spent $13,800 to clear snow from its streets. The city called 48 employees to work at 9 p.m. Friday, just as the storm was starting. The employees remained on duty until 9 a.m. Sunday, plowing roads, working on power lines and manning telephones. "I am certainly proud of all of our city employees," Slatcher said. "They went above and beyond the call of duty, leaving their families to come in and do what needed done. A lot of our employees live out in the country and went home Sunday morning to a situation where they didn't have any power. There are still some who have not had a hot shower yet." All of Seaford's primary and secondary roads were cleared by 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Slatcher said. City workers were clearing alleys Monday morning. As for power, the city's electric department counted 2,955 outages, caused by downed trees and failed switches. The average length of the outages was two hours, Slatcher said. The city got the last outage fixed at 11 p.m. Saturday; that household had been without power for 14 hours. Shwed said that households in and around Laurel did not experience power outages. "We have been very fortunate," he said. Like Slatcher, Shwed praised employees who worked overtime to clear the town's streets. As of Monday, all of the town's streets were passable, he said. Employees were working on the town's parking lots so that town hall, which was closed on Monday, could open on Tuesday. Smaller towns in western Sussex County handled the snow removal as best they could.

On Monday morning, Officer Aaron Bonniwell with the Bridgeville Police Department said that streets in the town were "still pretty bad." "Our streets are as good as can be with the amount of snow that we have and the amount of equipment that we have," said town manager Bonnie Walls. The town has one backhoe and two pickup trucks that are fitted with blades. On Sunday, one of the two pickups broke down and was still out of commission Monday afternoon. Walls said that town employees started clearing streets Saturday afternoon and worked all day Sunday. Even so, she said, she had fielded calls from residents, unhappy that their streets were not cleared. Town commissioners were to meet Monday afternoon to try to figure out a way to speed up the snow removal process, she added. In addition to snow removal, Bridgeville also had to handle a power outage at its wastewater treatment plant. Power at the plant was off for about six hours, Walls said. Workers there were able to turn on a backup generator so that operations at the plant continued to run smoothly. In Delmar, the town's three-man snow removal crew went to work early Saturday morning and worked through until Sunday at 11 p.m. They were slowed down when one of the town's three plow trucks broke down Saturday night, said town manager Sara Bynum-King. On Monday afternoon, primary roads were "passable," Bynum-King said, and secondary roads were still "in poor condition." "We are probably doing about as well as everybody else," she added. "This is a lot of snow to have to manage. We are accustomed to our typical winters with a flurry here and there and this snowfall is quite significant." Bynum-King could not estimate when town streets will be clear. "We will continue to do the best we can with what we have until we get through this season," she said. In Blades, all town streets were "passable" on Monday afternoon, said Chris Evick, secretary of the Blades Volunteer Fire Company. "I'd say they're not much more than passable," he added. Evick said that the town has two snow plows. In addition, the fire company has a truck with a snow plow that "has been running nonstop since Friday night." The fire company uses the truck to help clear town streets and also to get to houses where people have called for help. While talking about the snowstorm just passed, all town officials had their eyes on the storm approaching. On Monday, forecasts were calling for 5 to 10 inches of snow Tuesday night and Wednesday. "Oh, yippie," said Walls. "We're trying to get ready," said Slatcher. "We realize what's ahead of us is yet another challenge."

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