James Rada, Jr.
It was supposed to be the first day of spring on March 21. Instead, the region got snow, probably more snow than we saw all winter—when it’s actually supposed to snow—and it continued snowing into the second day of spring. Schools were closed. Events were canceled. There were lots of accidents.
One accident that got some national exposure was the school bus crash on MD 77, shortly before 4:00 p.m. on March 20. The driver lost control of the vehicle, about a mile west of Pryor Road. The bus veered off the winding road into Big Hunting Creek.
Luckily, the driver wasn’t injured, and no children were on the bus at the time. The bus was damaged, though, and MD 77 had to be closed. Traffic was detoured while the bus was pulled out of the creek.
Having lived on the mountain in Foxville while growing up, The Catoctin Banner Publisher Deb Abraham Spalding said, “It’s not uncommon to have more snow on the mountain than in the lower areas. This makes school bus navigation tricky for bus drivers who drive the mountain. My bus drivers, brothers Glenn DeLauter (late) and Paul DeLauter, used chains when I was riding the bus, and we still got stuck, sometimes.” Also, Shirley and Frank Riffle drove us for sporting events in all sorts of weather.
She reminisced, “For the longest time, I believed my father when he said he had four kids so he could weigh down the station wagon to make it up the mountain in snow. I survived many memorably terrifying adventures in the back of that station wagon, while Dad yelled, ‘Hang on!’ as he gunned the engine and fish-tailed the vehicle up to our house on Tower Road. I can laugh about that now, and I’m sure many people can relate.”
This school bus accident was just one of hundreds of accidents that occurred in Frederick County during the spring snow. Northern Frederick County didn’t get as much snow, in general, as the rest of the county and points west, but it was enough to cause plenty of problems. The mountain roads definitely presented more than their usual obstacles, and all of them had to be closed at some point, including Rt. 116 to Blue Ridge Summit and MD 550 to Sabillasville.
The National Weather Service put the snow totals for many places in the county at more than 20 inches, but Thurmont Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick said Thurmont got 11 inches.
The heavy snow also brought down power lines in some areas. The Maryland State Highway Administration confirmed that besides the MD 77 closure due to the crash, MD 550 was closed an hour later due to a utility pole coming down.
Emmitsburg and Thurmont were able to keep their roads cleared better since their crews are not as spread out as county and state crews. Humerick said that in Thurmont, besides having full public works crews plowing during the day, nine employees stayed overnight to try and keep up with plowing Thurmont’s roads.
“We concentrated on the main roads first and then worked our way back to clearing the cul de sacs,” Humerick said. “Our guys took extra care to try and make sure that they didn’t plow anyone’s driveway in.”
After two days of snow, the sun came out, and temperatures warmed up enough that the snow began to melt, helping to clear the roads even more, and to raise hopes that spring is truly on the way.
Andrea and Tommy Webb’s dog, Sadie, was just as surprised by the spring snow as we all were.