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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: winter storm operations

photo of woman shovelling snowJim Lathe
Chief of Highways

If you’re up at dawn to shovel your driveway on those deep-snow days, you’re not alone. And if, after you’ve shoveled the snow, you break out in a cold rage because a plow came along and pushed it all back where you started, you’re not alone either.

Snow happens.  And a little frustration is only natural – especially since you expect the County’s snow plow drivers to work with you, not against you. After all, they can see that you’ve just shoveled, can’t they?

The truth is, blocking driveways with mountains of snow and re-covering sidewalks you‘ve just shoveled has been a problem for plow drivers from time immemorial. As a driver for nine years, I know your problem and I’m sympathetic. But there’s simply no other way to “git ‘er done” except by plowing all the snow and ice to the curb. It’s better to push the snow onto a cleared driveway than to leave it in the road and it’s the only way to get the job done efficiently.

Your best bet is to shovel snow to the right side so that the plow pushes it away from your property. And, of course, never shovel snow into the street. The Department of Public Works asks that residents give snow plow drivers time to do their job before clearing driveways and walkways completely.

Remember, snow is everybody’s problem and everybody’s responsibility too. In Baltimore County we understand that homeowners have to do a lot of work to dig out of a heavy snow. And we, in turn, hope that residents understand that it takes a full twenty-four hours to clear a six-inch snowfall. So, please be patient; we’re all in this together!


graphic drawing of a snow plowJim Lathe
Baltimore County Chief of Highways

Everybody’s curious about the price tag. How much does it cost to plow the roads and keep them open every winter?

In Baltimore County, when there’s a hint of snow – when the weather person says there’s a chance for precip tomorrow – we, in the Bureau of Highways, Department of Public Works, begin looking very carefully at the bottom line. Because as soon as the word goes out that we’ve got snow duty – that we’re on the clock – we’re on the meter too.

This year we expect that plowing snow (that’s with a staff of 400 employees manning three hundred trucks working from 11 shops) will cost more than $37,000 per hour. And when we put down salt, that price goes up to $108,000 per hour. That’s because salt costs more than $50 a ton and we stock about 50,000 tons at 14 locations across the county.

Sunday’s storm cost the County $1.4 million. We’re still tabulating the expenses related yesterday’s snow and will post the total shortly.

It’s expensive, of course, but the total cost to keep the streets clear and safe varies wildly from year to year. Last year was an economical year for us. Baltimore County spent a little under $4 million to call out crews, to salt and to plow for 13 storms – many of them just dustings. But “Snowmageddon” back in 2010 was more than five times as expensive. The bills came to $20 million. Snow accumulation that winter was estimated at seven feet!

For a complete picture, take a look at our website for a listing of storm costs since Fiscal Year 2001.

During the past 13 years the cost has gone from a low of $2 million (when accumulation was a mere six inches in 2002) to the colossal winter four years ago. The average is about $7 million. But whatever the cost, you can rest assured that Baltimore County's Highway crews will give it our all to keep the streets open this year.


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