According to the National Weather Service, over 7 inches of snow fell in College Park beginning on Jan. 3. But it was the rain that fell earlier that morning, along with dropping temperatures through the day, that made this season’s first winter storm particularly treacherous and troublesome.
As is the practice in many jurisdictions in the region, the College Park Department of Public Works (DPW) pre-treats roads with a brine solution when conditions allow. But on Jan. 3, plows were not dispatched until 6 a.m. — too late for brining, as the rain had turned to snow. As anyone who’s shoveled knows, that combination makes for that heavy wintry mix that’s common here — and for a lot of sore backs, as well. And when temperatures drop, as they did on Jan. 4, that heavy wintry mix turns into ice.
Traffic came to a standstill on Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia on Monday. As was widely reported, it took crews more than 24 hours to clear the road of ice and snow so traffic could move again. No significant backups occurred in or around College Park.
In fact, residents weighed in favorably about the city’s efforts to clear streets. “Truthfully, I take them [DPW crews] for granted,” wrote longtime resident Dawn Budd, in an email, adding, “I don’t doubt the roads will be cleared of snow quickly (oftentimes my side road is better than Rhode Island Avenue between Paducah and Sunnyside).” Editor’s note: That stretch of Rhode Island Avenue is in Beltsville.
Cindy de Sales said that snow removal was not great in the rural Pennsylvania of her childhood. So when she moved to College Park and encountered her first snow event here 26 years ago, she stockpiled supplies, preparing to be homebound for days. “Was I surprised when the streets were being treated before the snow started falling and 2 or 3 times during the storm,” she wrote in an email. “From that point on, I would brag about our snow crew anytime someone would mention their snowy streets. They work hard, get the job done, and all my interactions with them have been positive. They’re rock stars and should be commended,” she added.
In addition to plowing, city crews dispersed 75 tons of roadway salt. They wrapped up work at 8 p.m. Monday evening and resumed at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning. Overnight temperatures had plummeted to 13 degrees.
According to the city, branches fell on city streets in 10 locations, and residents reported many downed Comcast or Verizon lines.
The City of College Park does not treat and plow several main thoroughfares, including Baltimore Avenue, Greenbelt Road, University Boulevard, and Kenilworth Avenue — all four are maintained by the State Highway Administration. Prince George’s County is responsible for clearing certain streets in College Park, as well, such as Metzerott Road and Rhode Island Avenue north of Greenbelt Road.
Prince George’s County closed schools on Jan. 3 and 4, giving snow days to students who otherwise would have been participating in virtual learning.
As the first full week of January rolled around, the streets were quiet. Flying sleds and snow balls accounted for most of the noise in neighborhoods around town, and four-legged friends had a snow day, too.
The Here & Now sought several interviews with DPW staff as we were developing this story. We were granted just one, with director Robert Marsili, who was too busy preparing for the Jan. 7 snowstorm to speak with us.