Baltimore’s Preparedness and Response to Historic Snowpocalypse
By CHHS Research Assistant Maraya Pratt
In anticipation of the predicted blizzard that was to hit Baltimore and surrounding areas this past weekend, Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Maryland starting Friday morning at 7:00 am. The declaration, according to Hogan, was to allow for the coordination of “all available resources – to prepare to clear roads, manage incidents, and recover from this storm.” Generally, a state of emergency allows the Governor to access certain resources, like the National Guard, in order to better equip the state to respond to a disaster. However, not all states of emergency are the same and each can change depending on the severity of the emergency. Governor Hogan added that with the declaration, it was crucial for all Marylanders to take action to prepare before the severe weather strikes. Important precautions include ensuring that all electronic devices are charged, having a plan and an emergency supply kit, and to “fully winterize” your vehicle. The governor also alerted multiple state agencies, including the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), to prepare for the storm.
The governor’s anticipation proved warranted when Baltimore experienced one of the largest snowstorms ever to hit Baltimore with a historic 29.2 inches at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. As a result, MEMA’s Executive Director Russell Strickland (a former CHHS alum) sent a letter of intent on Monday for the State of Maryland to pursue federal disaster assistance and to request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) start coordinating for joint damage assessments resulting from the blizzard. Federal assistance is potentially made possible via the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. According to Strickland, “reaching out to our federal partners is one step MEMA is taking as part of a comprehensive recovery effort.” He added that MEMA will also “be working closely with local officials, businesses, and other State agencies to assess damages caused by the storm and decide how to move forward.”
Specifically, snow removal has become a large impediment in the recovery process for Baltimore and surrounding areas. State officials had already deployed 700 National Guard troops, 212 vehicles, 365,000 tons of salt, and approximately 3,000 pieces of road-clearing equipment just one day after the snow stopped falling. The director of the city’s transportation department stated that crews are working 12-hour shifts in attempts to clear all the snow.
Although government officials have not commented on how much the state or city has spent or anticipate on spending, they expect the amount to be massive. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked Baltimore residents to have patience with the snow removal warning that, “When you have a storm of historic proportions, the budget will be historic as well.” As a reference, the blizzard in February of 2010, also known as “Snowmaggedon”, cost Maryland more than $50 million. The state government is not the only entity experiencing financial damage. Some analysts have estimated that businesses and employees along the East Coast will lose $2.5 billion to $3 billion from the blizzard resulting from lost sales and lost wages.