With La Plata blanketed in about five inches of snow Thursday, golf pro Ned Spearbeck, 38, had little reason to show up for work at Hawthorne Country Club. So, while adventurous sledders headed to the club's steep terrain for an afternoon of fun, he stayed home to shovel his driveway in a Redskins hat and his golf shoes.
Spearbeck has learned to roll with the punches that inclement weather can bring. The April 28 tornado leveled his family's two-story home in the Quailwood neighborhood, taking with it their winter sleds. Their brick house is rebuilt, but 11-year-old Janice Spearbeck's snow equipment hasn't been replaced.
"She's inside doing the dishes," Ned Spearbeck said, adding that Janice probably would find friends to sled with later in the day.
The season's early snow, which dumped three to six inches on Southern Maryland, found some residents unprepared, but county public works crews were equipped to handle the storm that swept up the East Coast after hitting North Carolina.
From late Wednesday night to Friday afternoon, dozens of workers used hundreds of pieces of equipment to push slush and ice off roads. In Charles, public works employees had most roads cleared by Thursday afternoon and spent Friday finishing intersections and shoulders.
About 3,000 tons of salt were spread and 200 pieces of county and contract equipment used, said Steve Staples, chief of county roads.
"It went better than expected," Staples said Friday, after workers went home by 3:30 p.m., their regular quitting time. "County staff worked throughout the night and through the following day with no rest and got the roads cleared for the citizens."
St. Mary's County officials said the modest snowfall allowed them to get roads cleared by Friday afternoon, when warmer temperatures and a break in cloud cover melted some of the four inches of snow that fell on the county.
The storm was classified as a "Level 2 Minor Storm" by county officials, meaning roads were supposed to be cleared within 48 hours. A relentless sleet and rain froze on some county roads in St. Mary's on Thursday night, causing workers to abandon efforts to clear some streets until Friday morning, said George Erichsen, director of the St. Mary's County Department of Public Works.
"We have salted a few areas with black ice, especially the intersections," Erichsen said Friday.
About 16 trucks and dozens of employees cleared snow and laid down salt along county roads, hitting main thoroughfares first before turning to subdivision streets and cul-de-sacs, Erichsen said.
Two snow removal contractors were called into service in the western quarter of the county, where there was greater snow accumulation, Erichsen said. Two other contractors were put to work salting roads.
In Calvert most roads were cleared early Thursday night, and crews had only a few streets to revisit on Friday, said Robert Taylor, director of the county Department of Public Works. More than 60 trucks deployed to clear snow and pour salt labored from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 8 p.m. Thursday.
"As soon as the sun hit the sky, anything that was frozen became water almost instantly," Taylor said.
A skeleton crew working overnight was called to salt two roads where ice had formed in the freezing temperatures, Taylor said.
In St. Mary's, snow trucks damaged more roadside residential mailboxes than in past storms, because the snow the plows pushed to the side was heavy and turned to slush quickly, Erichsen said. Taylor said his crew got a moderate number of complaints.
"It's not that light and fluffy stuff," Taylor said of Thursday's snow. "It will take a mailbox over."
Throughout the storm, major Southern Maryland roads were open and power stayed on. There were no serious accidents caused by the weather, but police officials estimated there were more than 100 instances of cars skidding off roads or getting into minor fender-benders throughout the region.
"A lot of them are slipping and sliding vehicles, and cars getting stuck in ditches," said Kristen Adkins, a spokeswoman for the Charles County sheriff's office.
Among those braving the slick roads Thursday were area pizza deliverers, who benefited from high sales and generous tips made by those unwilling to venture out. By 3:30 p.m., the Domino's Pizza in Lexington Park had sold twice as many pizzas as it does on a typical day, and manager Carolyn Whitt had to call in two extra drivers.
Three drivers also were needed at Pizza Hotline in La Plata to handle the crush of orders, thought the pizzeria normally has only one or two drivers on duty. A nearby nursing home ordered 20 pizzas early in the afternoon, then called for 11 more later.
One driver was more embarrassed than hurt when he fell in the White Plains Post Office parking lot, but employee Tara Bucci said the small hazards were worth the trouble.
"Your chances of getting the sympathy tips are good on days like this," she said.
Civista Medical Center in La Plata suffered from no staffing shortages thanks to a corps of volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles who picked up any doctors and nurses unable to make it to work on their own. Some volunteers rose just after dawn to get medical staff to the hospital in time for their 7 a.m. shift Thursday, said hospital spokeswoman Darlene Fairfax.
Schools were empty in all three counties both Thursday and Friday. That meant Meals on Wheels clients in Charles County didn't receive their hot lunches because of a local rule that the program doesn't deliver when public schools close.
Participants typically receive a winter package equipped with food for 10 days -- containing goods such as applesauce, soup, crackers and tuna -- but the early snow caught coordinators off guard. The food boxes were scheduled to be delivered tomorrow.
"Normally, we have them all delivered before there's ever a hint of snow," said Mary Hancock, who runs the Nanjemoy program that serves 18 clients in rural western Charles County.
But Hancock wasn't worried that any of her clients would go hungry.
"We see them every day, so if we thought there was somebody who wasn't going to be able to eat, we would have done something," she said. "We're not delivering to people who are bedridden or can't get any food at all if we don't deliver."
Others found that the risk of going down Southern Maryland's many rural roads required extra caution. Jon Johnson, owner of County Drug in La Plata, did not send his prescription deliveryman Thursday to Cobb Island in the southern part of Charles County.
"If I send my driver out and he gets stuck, then I'm not helping anybody," Johnson said.
Staff writer Raymond McCaffrey contributed to this report.