Monday, February 08, 2010

Berliner Comments on Snow Emergency

County Council Member Roger Berliner, who represents Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac, sent out this email to his constituents tonight. This communication gives the phrase "I feel your pain" new meaning!

Special Edition: Snow Emergency

Good evening to you all. This has been a rough couple of days - for everyone. 30 inches of snow is really beyond the pale.

My tale is not as bad as some, but I experienced no power and no heat for almost 48 hours (we could see our breath in the kitchen), and my road still hasn't been plowed. Unfortunately, some of you are enduring even greater hardships -- no power still and no real assurances from PEPCO as to when you will have it back.

The frustration with our County's plowing operation has been intense. I have gotten calls at home from irate constituents, e-mail pleas from friends asking if I could help, and our office e-mail has been overwhelmed with questions, concerns, and complaints.

My staff and I have been in constant communication with both the County Executive's team and PEPCO executives. Here is what we have been told:

· It is our County's policy, as it is in many neighboring jurisdictions, to focus first on "primary" and "secondary" roads before even starting on neighborhood streets. In a storm of this magnitude, that means it can be two days after the storm subsides before neighborhood roads are started. As of midnight last night (Sunday), our crews, with something like 800 pieces of equipment, began moving into our neighborhood streets. And while it seems odd (and vexing to be sure) that some streets get plowed before others in the same neighborhood, each crew has its own assignments, and all areas of our County are being treated equitably.

· Our office has also been inundated with e-mails and calls regarding the state of some of our major roads --- Massachusetts Ave, Old Georgetown Rd., Wisconsin Ave, River Road, Goldsboro, and Bradley Blvd. These are state roads, and are the responsibility of the state to plow. We have been in contact with state officials to let them know that these roads have not been given the attention they require. If you would like to report a problem with one of our state roads, call 1 (800) 543-2515.

· PEPCO has its own priority list. It focuses on the outages that affect the most people first, working its way down the list to the ones that affect just a few homeowners. They have been hampered by road access as well. I have asked our County officials to prioritize plowing in areas that are without power. PEPCO believes the vast majority of people will have power back on in the next 24 hours; however, they are saying that some situations may not be addressed until Friday in light of the new storm expected between Tuesday night and Wednesday.

We have also been privy to some heart-warming stories as well - stories about neighbors pitching in to help other neighbors, clearing trees and streets so that the frail and elderly can get needed services.

These types of emergencies really test all of us. They test our government's capacity, and our own. Do know that my staff and I are working hard on your behalf to make sure that our County gets to you as soon as possible, that you have power as soon as PEPCO can get it to you, and that life returns to normal as soon as possible - which may not be soon enough if this next storm is what they are forecasting - another 10-20 inches.


Roger Berliner
District 1

Below you will find additional information that may be helpful:

* For residents still without power, the County has opened three shelters located at: the Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center at 1000 Forest Glen Road in Silver Spring; the Longwood Recreation Center at 19300 Georgia Avenue, Brookeville; and Richard Montgomery High School at 250 Richard Montgomery Drive in Rockville.

* To report snow removal problems or downed trees, call 240-777-6000.

* Montgomery County Public Schools and all administrative offices will be closed on Tuesday, Feb. 9. All school and community activities in school buildings are canceled.

* Montgomery County's RideOn bus service is limited today and is operating under its "S Service" schedule.

* Montgomery County's Fire and Rescue Service urges residents without power to be aware that using gas or charcoal grills, propane heaters and stoves, kerosene space heaters or generators indoors can be fatal. They are a source of carbon monoxide, which can build up indoors and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

* Montgomery County government's cable television channel - County Cable Montgomery (CCM), which can be viewed on Channel 6 on the Comcast and RCN cable systems and Channel 30 on Verizon - is continuing to feature live coverage of road conditions at all major traffic intersections.

* Montgomery Department of Transportation (DOT) plow trucks are assisting PEPCO crews in reaching locations to restore power to the greatest number of customers.

* Suspension of enforcement of parking restrictions in all public parking garages and lots will continue through Thursday. Parking enforcement has been suspended since 3 p.m. on Friday. Residents are encouraged to park in these garages and lots rather than on the street, to make it easier for plowing operations to occur.

* The County Department of Transportation (DOT) reports neighborhood plowing was started Sunday night and early Monday morning. All DOT staff, as well as Tier I, Tier II and Tier III contractors, are treating neighborhoods at this time.

* Information on County plowing policies and procedures is available on the County Web site at:

* For a street that may have been missed by County plows, a report can be made via the County Web site at:

* Tree crews are staffed at each depot to respond to any tree related issues.

* DOT plow trucks are also assisting tree crews in reaching locations.

* County-owned parking lots and parking garages, and sidewalks near those facilities, have been cleared of snow.

* Park & Ride lots have been plowed and sidewalks/bus shelters cleared and treated.

* The Montgomery County government offices were closed on Monday, Feb 8, and scheduled Council meetings were cancelled. The Council is planning on resuming its regular schedule with a 9 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9, with the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority. The Council's regular general session is scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday in Rockville. However, Tuesday evening's scheduled public hearing on the FY 2011-16 Capital Improvements Program has been rescheduled to Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m.

* Monday's Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting on the White Flint Sector Plan has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m. For County Council weather-related schedule changes, call 240-777-7900.

* Montgomery County Police report that as some roads become more passable, drivers are increasing their speed. However, motorists are advised that they may encounter varying conditions on the same stretch of road, as plowing operations continue. Drivers are reminded to maintain a safe stopping between vehicles.

* Drivers are also reminded that the melting occurring today will produce black ice during the night and caution is advised. Drivers should stay alert at all times for pedestrians walking in the roadways, where sidewalks are impassable with plowed snow. Police are asking residents to stay at home if at all possible, as plows, trucks and front-end loaders are moving snow and workers clearing sidewalks may be in the street.

* If a County plow has damaged your mailbox, the County will install a standard post and mailbox at your residence as soon as all snow plowing is completed. Call 240-777-6000 to file a report. If you have a non-standard mailbox, call the County's Risk Management Division at 240-777-8920. In the meantime, a temporary mailbox will be installed.

* County-provided recycling and trash collections canceled on Monday, Feb. 8. All recycling and trash pickups slide one day. The County transfer station is open, but will close at 5 p.m. with no evening hours.

* All County public libraries were closed on Monday, Feb. 8. Customers are asked not to return library materials until libraries reopen and are asked not to leave materials outside the library buildings. Materials due Feb. 5 through Feb. 10 will have their due dates extended one week. No fines will be charged for the period from Friday, Feb. 5, through Wednesday, Feb. 10.