Road crews and Metro prepare for possible snowfall to hit area

The Beltway's inner loop was wet in some lanes, slushy in others, snowy at merges. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)
This winter has brought several snow events to area roadways. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

For highway crews and Metro, the chatter of snow has become routine this winter, officials at the agencies said Tuesday as they checked weather forecasts for what could be a serious winter storm that’s expected to arrive Wednesday night.

Metro said it will activate its emergency operations center and “monitor conditions as we go throughout the storm,” according to Metro’s chief spokesman Dan Stessel.

He warned riders that Metro’s rail service could be suspended depending on what he called a “number of factors,” including the speed of the snowfall and “how much can be cleared over the course of the storm to prevent it from contacting the third rail.”

“When you start to see snowfall above 8 inches is when you could see above-ground service affected,” Stessel said. Snowfall totals over 8 inches and when the snow and ice make contact with the third rail can create power issues and impact service.

Metro shut down its service during Hurricane Sandy because of the potential for high winds during the storm and a risk of debris and trees being blown onto the tracks, Stessel said.

Stessel said Metro’s 250 bus routes could also be impacted, depending on the extent of the snowfall and road conditions.

At the Maryland Department of Transportation, officials said crews were preparing for the expected snowfall.

“It’s been a very busy winter so far,” said Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland DOT. “The crews just came off [last week's] ice event and the little storm over the weekend.” He said as Wednesday’s expected storm gets closer, “we’ll develop a plan and be stocked up and ready to roll.”

For the latest developments on the winter storm, check the Capital Weather Gang site.
Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.
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Robert Thomson · February 11