February 17, 2010
During the past two weeks, Howard County witnessed history, and now, most of us just want to forget it.
Our snowfall total for the season has already crushed the previous record, and even in snowier locations like Boston, this would be considered an historic winter. In short, we were up against a challenge like none we had ever seen before.
However, as epic as the snowfall was during this time, the response from our community was even more so. Residents, businesses, and County Government came together like no other time in County history to dig our community out from the depths and drifts of this record-breaking snow.
And witnessing this amazing work firsthand has been a truly humbling experience for me.
I watched as County plow drivers -- working for days straight on very little rest -- braved extremely dangerous driving conditions to keep roads open so emergency response vehicles could reach their calls. Behind the scenes, I saw crews in our Highway shops labor around the clock to keep our equipment up and running in the face of the relentless conditions outside.
And in our Emergency Operations Center, I joined with other dedicated County employees who answered the call of duty when they were needed most, despite the danger and sacrifices involved. In all, hundreds of County employees from almost every department – Police, Fire, Recreation and Parks, Citizen Services, Health, and the list goes on – spent days on end away from their families and loved ones to ensure that Howard County Government was there when it was needed most.
We were joined in this effort by business and community partners too numerous to list here. But a special thank you goes out to the Howard County School System and Columbia Association, both of which contributed without pause resources and staff to the massive clean-up effort.
And the selflessness we saw from our County employees was just as evident in you, the residents. I’ve heard stories and visited neighborhoods where groups of residents banded together to dig out neighbors who were unable or clear off bus stops and sidewalks so kids could get to school. I also saw remarkable patience, as our crews tackled the slow, difficult process of finding places to put this seemingly endless and overwhelming amount of snow.
Even now, as life is returning to normal, I am impressed with what I have seen. Schools opened today, and for the most part, everything went smoothly. Drivers have returned to the roads, and despite continued hazards like decreased sight distances and hard packed snow, we have not seen a noticeable increase in traffic accidents. Your patience, courtesy and understanding during this winter have affirmed my belief that Howard County truly is one of the best communities anywhere and it is an incredible honor to serve you.
We are not fully out of the woods yet, however. Our crews are still working at intersections and along neighborhood streets to improve sight distances and expand travel lanes. And we must ask for your patience as this work continues.
Though we believe that we did the best we could under the circumstances, we know that our response to these storms was not perfect. In the coming weeks and months, we will do a full review of our response and use the lessons we learn to better prepare ourselves for the next major snowstorm.
We were all tested by this unprecedented weather, and as is often the case, Howard County rose to the challenge. Thank you again for all of your patience and cooperation during this historic winter, and let’s all look forward to a warm, sunny spring.