Mild Winters Cost Big Bucks in D.C. Area

By Scott MacFarlane
|  Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013  |  Updated 6:34 PM EDT
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Mild Winters Cost Big Bucks in D.C. Area

Even small amounts of snow have created big expenses for local governments in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, according to expense reports obtained by the News4 I-Team.

The mild winter of 2012-2013 featured precious little snow, but triggered more than $50 million in combined snow removal expenses in D.C., Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Frederick County, Arlington County, Fairfax County and Loudoun County.

In Montgomery County alone, government agencies spent $1 million per inch of snow measured inside county lines.

A memo written by a Montgomery County Council official shows the county exceeded its planned budget for snow removal in 2012-2013 in part because, “While some of the events did not result in plowing, both county and contractual personnel were required to report and/or be on standby.”

Keith Compton, director of highway services for the county, said the icy conditions experienced this week – and often in 2012 – can trigger expensive road treatments and responses.

“There’s really nothing easy and inexpensive about snow removal," Compton said. "It’s all a challenge and Mother Nature seldom pitches you the same storm twice.”

The News4 I-Team review found the mild 2012-2013 winter also created $6.2 million in snow response expenses in D.C., $1.6 million in Prince George’s County, $1.4 million in Frederick County, and approximately $48 million in Northern Virginia.

A Virginia Department of Transportation official cited weather forecasts that “didn’t pan out” as a reason for some large costs.

Icy conditions, which often require a mixture of chemicals and salt, can be pricier than a traditional snowfall, in which crews rely more heavily on snowplows.

In 2009-2010, a winter infamous for major blizzards, Montgomery County spent nearly $500,000 for each inch of snow.

In 2012-2013, an icier winter, expenses exceeded $1 million per inch.

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