WV snow-clearing crews move to secondary roads

Journal photo by John McVey A car along Queen Street in downtown Martinsburg was submerged in snow Monday afternoon. Crews were removing six-foot-high piles of snow.
Journal photo by John McVey
A car along Queen Street in downtown Martinsburg was submerged in snow Monday afternoon. Crews were removing six-foot-high piles of snow.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The primary roads in the Eastern Panhandle are in good shape, and crews are moving onto secondary roads, according to Brent Walker, communications director for the West Virginia Department Department of Transportation.

“We still urge drivers to use extreme caution,” Walker said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview. “For the most part, motorists have allowed our crews to do their jobs. We’re using contractors to help with the plowing. It’s going to take some time to dig out of this historic storm.”

The Eastern Panhandle, Shenandoah Valley and Cumberland Valley were hit the hardest in Friday’s and Saturday’s snowstorm. Reports of more than 40 inches of snow have been reported throughout the region.

As of Monday afternoon, WVDOT released its official update of roadways in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties:

All primary routes in Berkeley County were 80-90 percent open to two lanes, and crews were working on secondary routes.

All primary routes were open and passable in Jefferson County, with most open to one and a half lanes of traffic, and 50 percent of secondary routes were open to at least one lane.

All primary routes in Morgan County were open and passable, with most open to one and a half to two lanes, and crews were working on secondary routes.

And Interstate 81 was open to at least two lanes in both directions. Crews were working to open all travel lanes and ramps.

Walker said with temperatures dropping to well below freezing overnight, motorists can expect frozen roadways in the morning and the possibility of black ice.

“We’re treating road surfaces and the treatment is working, the higher temperatures help,” he said.

Jeff Wilkerson, director of Martinsburg’s Public Works Department, said about 90 percent of the streets in the city were passable as of Monday afternoon. His crews were working on a couple problem areas, but he expected those areas to be open by the end of the day Monday.

“We’ve been talking with local contractors and they’re starting to trickle in to help with the plowing,” Wilkerson said. “We’re going to start hauling the snow out of downtown and we should have it clear by the end of the week, and then we’ll move to the side streets.”

The couple of problem areas were where crews were not able to plow on Saturday, Wilkerson said. By the time crews got to those areas, the snow was so deep, the city’s plows could not move it, so front-end loaders had to be used to remove the snow, he said.

“It slowed the process, but we had those roads dug out by the end of the day,” Wilkerson said.

Crews began removing snow from Queen Street Monday afternoon, starting at Race Street. A front-end loader was scooping up six-foot-plus piles of snow on the sides of the street and filling large dump trucks that hauled the snow to various city properties, such as open space near Oatesdale Park and city’s sewer treatment plant.

“Other than the amount of snow, there has not been anything out of the ordinary,” Wilkerson said. “It’s hard on the equipment. We’ve had tire chains break and salt spreaders break. Our replacement parts have been depleted and we’re waiting for our suppliers to get us the parts.

City Manager Mark Baldwin asked for residents to be patient.

“It’s a slow, methodical process,” he said Monday in a telephone interview. “We’re working to get at least one lane open on all streets so people can get to a main artery.”

He has requested additional resources from the state, such as front-end loaders and large dump trucks, but so far the requests have been denied.

“We send our request to the Berkeley County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and they forward it to the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services,” Baldwin explained. “The requests have been submitted in a timely fashion by the county and the responses have been timely, but the response has been ‘not available.’ We’ve requested two or three front-end loaders and two or three trucks and the personnel. The more equipment and personnel we have, the quicker we can get this done.”

Ed DeShields, the public information officer for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said, “All assets are committed to primary and secondary roads, and will not be dedicated to municipalities until those roads are passable.”

DeShields said it was not clear when the additional equipment could be reassigned to municipalities.

“We’re working on that hour by hour,” he said.

He added that two National Guard community assistance teams from Beckley had been in the region since early Sunday.

“We’ve been extremely busy with medical personnel transport,” DeShields said. “That’s an extremely necessary asset.”

Trash collection in Martinsburg has been suspended for the week. City officials hope the service will resume its regular schedule next week.

– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128, or

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