Second wave of snow falls on D.C. area after major storm forces closures, cancellations

The most significant snowfall in the Washington region since the infamous “Snowmageddon” of 2010 descended with a double bite Thursday, punctuating a winter already cold, harsh and relentless.

The weather had a familiar, nasty character, beginning overnight and into the morning with snow, then turning to sleet and rain in many places. A few hours after that ended — barely time enough for sidewalk clearing and the digging out of cars — the snow returned for a second round. The Capital Weather Gang’s Dan Stillman said most areas in and around the District picked up another 1 to 3 inches of snow before the storm moved out of the region late Thursday.

The effects were still being felt Friday, the federal government was opening two hours later than usual and nearly all public schools in the region were closed. Metrobus, which was suspended operations Thursday afternoon because of weather conditions, was to resume at 5 a.m. Friday only on selected major arterials.

Reagan National and Dulles International airports both reported late Thursday that operations were expected to ramp up Friday, but warned that some flights, especially Friday morning, could be canceled or delayed.

The heavy snowfall that began late Wednesday shut down the federal government on Thursday, brought air travel to a halt and kept the bulk of the region’s residents at home.

See how much snowfall has hit the region.

The storm was linked to at least three deaths. A Virginia Department of Transportation contract truck driver working to clear roads died after he was struck by another VDOT truck in Ashburn. Virginia State Police said Lovo Guevara Geovany Arnoldo, 32, of Vienna pulled off the road and was standing behind his truck when he was hit by the second VDOT truck.

In Howard County, Md., two men in their 50s died after collapsing while shoveling snow, one in Woodstock and the other in Columbia, said Marc Fischer, a spokesman for Howard’s fire and rescue department. A third man was found dead outside, but officials did not know how he had died. Autopsies were expected to be performed Friday.

“This is deep, heavy snow, and I implore everyone to take it easy,” Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said in a news release. “Please don’t over-exert yourself. Clear a little at a time.”

By Thursday evening, many of the region’s major school systems had announced they would be closed for a second day Friday, creating a five-day vacation for schoolchildren, who have Monday off for President’s Day.

For 17-month-old Evalyn Heyman, Thursday brought her first real frolic in the snow. “She loves it,” Leigh Heyman, 42, said as his daughter played on 13th Street in Northwest Washington. “She clearly has Northern parents. She got the whole walking-on-ice thing pretty quickly.”

The winter weather was forecast to persist into the pre-dawn hours of Friday. Sunshine was expected to bring some melting during the day, but there was the prospect of more light snow later Friday and on Saturday.

Even before the second round of snow Thursday, Dulles International Airport had recorded more than a foot of snow; Olney, Md., had 15 inches; eight inches had come down on Northeast D.C.; seven in Alexandria; 16 in Germantown, Md.; and 13 in Oakton, Va. Snowfall generally was lighter to the east of the District, although Crofton, Md., had eight inches.

The bad weather spread across the eastern states, bombarding them with the same snow and ice that paralyzed much of the South on Wednesday. More than 6,000 flights were canceled, most of them in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York and the Washington region’s three major airports.

Virginia State Police said they had responded to more than 3,300 calls for assistance statewide, and there were scores of disabled vehicles in Northern Virginia.

Power outages were surprisingly absent through much of Thursday, but utility companies stood ready overnight if ice and freezing rain topped the heavy snow to bring down lines. As of 8 p.m., Pepco reported a total of about 4,000 outages in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, along with the District. Dominion and Baltimore Gas and Electric had only a few hundred outages between them.

In a region given to bashing weather forecasters for getting it wrong, there was little for the cynics to complain about this time.

“I never really believed it,” James Beaner, 40, said of the forecast. “I didn’t think it was going to stop anyone from doing anything.”

Almost 1,000 flights from the region’s airports were canceled Thursday, and the Brock family had planned to be on one of them. The snow hardly curbed their excitement as they waited at Reagan National Airport in hope of getting a flight to their vacation in Miami.

Still, Heidi Brock, 50, was thankful for being in a “great entertainment spot” for her young son, motioning to the snow removal process in progress on the closed runways.

“With a 6-year-old boy, there’s nothing more interesting than airplanes and dump trucks,” she said.

American Airlines Flight 1575 was the only one to Chicago that had not been canceled.

When the flight crew arrived about an hour before the 5:20 p.m. scheduled departure, the passengers started to cheer.

“It’s crazy to see all the cancellations, and then ours is the only one on schedule,” said Matt Bordner, 19, of Dakota, Ill., population 500.

With schools and most workplaces closed Thursday, people spent the day shoveling snow. But Lloyd Hepner, 72, of Strasburg, Va., was in business.

“I can make $4,000 to $5,000 in a day,” Hepner said, leaning on his shovel after 20 hours of work. “Four to five inches of snow works good, but this is too much.”

Asked how he was able to work for so long, the former Chantilly, Va., resident just smiled. “I guess I’m used to it,” Hepner said.

Justin Williams, 19, and his friend Melvin Anderson, 18, saw snow as a moneymaking possibility, too, as they walked through Fort Washington, Md., with large shovels over their shoulders. But they said only one person in the 11 houses they called on had cash to pay their $25 fee. Everyone else offered checks or credit cards.

“Nah. man, I ain’t taking nobody’s check to shovel no snow,” Williams said. “How is it no one has any cash out here?”

The piles of snow next to Will Smith’s Volvo XC90 stood nearly as tall as his SUV, but the 29-year-old had managed to do what almost no one else on his block in Fairfax County had done: dig out his car.

Smith said the excavation was backbreaking. When asked how long it took, he had to stop and calculate. He finally offered a tally: 90 minutes.

“I was joking with my wife that they put camping chairs in parking spots in Chicago to save them after they dig their cars out,” Smith said. “I was going to leave a little mound of snow in my spot with my shovel stuck in it, so no one parks in it.”

The snow was play for Irina Yakadina, 42, and her son, 15-year-old Ilya Besancon. They crafted a motorcycle to accompany the myriad snowmen that others had erected in Logan Circle.

“Fantastic. Beautiful. It’s a true snow where you can really build stuff,” Yakadina said. “How much better can it get?”

But for those who live on the streets, bad weather is not a time for fun.

The organization that runs the emergency shelter for men in Montgomery reported a record number of people seeking their services Wednesday night. After averaging 178 men this winter, they took in 198.

In Arlington County, emergency shelters for single adults that are typically open only for the night stayed open throughout the cold and snowy day Thursday, said Kathy Sibert, executive director of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.

“We always find a way to make room,” she said. “We never turn anyone away.”

The District is one of only a handful of jurisdictions nationwide, including New York City and Massachusetts, that gives residents a legal right to shelter on nights when temperatures drop below freezing.

The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project brought activity packets to snowed-in children at D.C. General on Thursday. Jamila Larson, who is with the group, said children have few places to play inside the shelter and no place to play outside, save for a parking lot and a sidewalk near a methadone clinic.

“A snow day for kids at the shelter isn’t the same as a snow day for most kids,” she said. “They have nothing to do.”

Debbi Wilgoren, Matt Zapotosky, Julie Zauzmer, Dan Morse, Theresa Vargas, Michael E. Ruane. T. Rees Shapiro, Michael Rosenwald, Katherine Shaver, Caitlin Gibson, Steve Hendrix, Patrick Svitek, Emma Brown, Patricia Sullivan, Martin Weil, Susan Svrluga, Paul Duggan, Keith Alexander, Antonio Olivo, Michael A. Chandler, Lynh Bui, Luz Lazo, Lori Aratani, Mike DeBonis, Mark Berman, Justin Jouvenal, Brigid Schulte, Katherine Shaver, Donna St. George, Victoria St. Martin, Laura Vozzella, John Wagner, Ovetta Wiggins and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

by Ashley Halsey III

and Luz Lazo

A winter storm blanketed the Washington area with a steady snowfall early Thursday as it swept north after shutting down much of the Deep South on Wednesday.

As the snow piled up on area streets, Metro suspended all bus service “until further notice” at 3:30 a.m. due to weather and road conditions. Metro planned to open the rail system at 5 a.m. with trains running on a normal weekday schedule. The agency warned that snow depths of 8 inches or more could result in above-ground service being suspend due to concerns about snow in contact with the electrified third rail.

Downtown Washington had about 4 inches of snow as of 3 a.m., and the flakes were continuing to fall rapidly.

But with plenty of warning, Washington and its surroundings appeared to be ready for this storm.

Late Wednesday, snowplows and salt trucks were poised, states of emergency had been declared, the populace was braced and the obligatory trio — bread, milk and toilet paper — had been swept from market shelves.

None of those pre-storm cliches about winter weather needed dusting off this time as the Washington region prepared for what threatened to be the worst storm of a long season of cold and snow.

Although the forecast of at least four to eight inches of snow, plus sleet and freezing rain, would draw snorts of laughter from those who live not so terribly far to the north — Philadelphia and New York have been snowbound this year — Washington battened down for weather paralysis.

The federal government decided at about 10 p.m. Wednesday to close offices on Thursday. D.C. government offices are closed, and public schools throughout the region are closed as are all of D.C.’s charter schools. Georgetown, George Washington, American University and the University of the District of Columbia all canceled Thursday classes.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang forecast that four to eight inches of snow would be on the ground by 7 a.m. Thursday, with greater accumulations possible locally. Within 15 miles of Interstate 95 and points east, snow was likely to mix with and change to sleet and freezing rain between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.

In western Fairfax and Montgomery, snow was expected to continue, possibly bringing several more inches of accumulation.

As the first dusting of snow covered the District’s sidewalks and streets, at least one Yellow Cab driver was unfazed by the prospect of yet another snowfall.

“The weather is going to do what it’s going to do,’’ said Charles Smoke, 55, a car salesman who was working on a day off as a part-time cabbie. “I’m gonna go out here right now and get me some fares while I can.”

The declarations of snow emergencies were more than show: They mean that vehicles parked on designated snow emergency routes have to be moved to clear the way for plows.

“We are ready, our equipment is ready, and we have plenty of salt,” said William O. Howland Jr., director of the District’s Department of Public Works. “Of course, if enough snow accumulates, we will plow the streets.”

Howland said that under the snow emergency, which went into effect at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, vehicles parked on those routes would be towed and their owners would face a $250 fine plus towing fees. “We’re going to impound every snow-emergency vehicle,” he said.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) also declared snow emergencies that prohibit cars from parking on designated emergency routes.

“There’s a big swath of nasty snow and ice that’s moving up the East Coast,” O’Malley said during an early afternoon news conference Wednesday. “It’s a big storm, and it has the potential to do a lot of damage.”

The prospect of significant snow followed by ice and rain put power lines at risk.

Pepco, which serves the District and much of the Maryland suburbs, said it had about 600 linemen ready to react.

Virginia Dominion Power warned customers to be prepared for prolonged power outages should ice or wet, heavy snow down lines. The utility said it was working through the Southeastern Electric Exchange to make sure additional resources were available. About 700 non-Dominion line crews from states as far away as Michigan, Louisiana and Oklahoma were scheduled to be in the region through Friday, according to the Dominion Web site.

The District and state agencies in Maryland and Virginia said they had plenty of salt despite a winter that has consumed thousands of tons of it.

Maryland has used about 319,000 tons of salt and has more than 240,000 tons available.

“We are moving some salt within our districts in preparation of this storm,” said Valerie Burnette Edgar of the Maryland State Highway Administration. “Higher snow accumulations require more plowing, less salting. The sleet, freezing rain, ice storms obviously require more salt use.”

Virginia’s Department of Transportation has used about 157,000 tons in the northern counties adjacent to the District and has 65,000 tons on hand.

“We are in very good shape,” said agency spokeswoman Joan Morris.

Morris said the agency’s storm budget for Northern Virginia is $63 million.

“We already spent $83 million,” she said, “and this could easily be a $30 million storm.”

The Montgomery Department of Transportation has spent $13 million on snow removal, of which $3 million went for salt, spokeswoman Esther Bowring said.

She said that in years such as this, the agency requests supplemental funds to cover the excess cost.

In Prince George’s, where $2.8 million was allocated for snow removal this year, the county has spent $7.4 million, officials said.

In Southern Maryland’s Charles County, $1.1 million had been spent through the most recent snowfall last week, far exceeding the $782,100 that was approved for this year’s snow-removal efforts.

Steve Staples, chief of the road division in Charles, said that preparing for the ninth storm this year requires slowing down other services, including trimming trees and cleaning ditches. And agencies have to make sure to get enough salt because demand across the region can affect deliveries.

“It has definitely been busier than other years,” Staples said. “We are on storm number nine. In years past, we have had two or three storms.” Charles is preparing for four to 10 inches of snow Wednesday night.

“We are hoping for rain,” he said.

In Richmond, the House and Senate sent their teenage pages home for the weekend, fearing that by the end of the week, parents wouldn’t be able to travel to pick them up.

“Some of them live in southwest Virginia, and we just wanted to be sure they got home safely,” said Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar. But legislators in the General Assembly, which has called only one snow day in the past 40 years, expected to work no matter what the weather is.

“We’re planning to go ahead,” Schaar said.

Lori Aratani, Mike DeBonis, Mark Berman, Donna St. George, Laura Vozzella, John Wagner, Ovetta Wiggins and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

Get updates on your area delivered via e-mail

by Ashley Halsey III

and Luz Lazo

A winter storm blanketed the Washington area with a steady snowfall early Thursday as it swept north after shutting down much of the Deep South on Wednesday.

As the snow piled up on area streets, Metro suspended all bus service “until further notice” at 3:30 a.m. due to weather and road conditions. Metro planned to open the rail system at 5 a.m. with trains running on a normal weekday schedule. The agency warned that snow depths of 8 inches or more could result in above-ground service being suspend due to concerns about snow in contact with the electrified third rail.

Downtown Washington had about 4 inches of snow as of 3 a.m., and the flakes were continuing to fall rapidly.

But with plenty of warning, Washington and its surroundings appeared to be ready for this storm.

Late Wednesday, snowplows and salt trucks were poised, states of emergency had been declared, the populace was braced and the obligatory trio — bread, milk and toilet paper — had been swept from market shelves.

None of those pre-storm cliches about winter weather needed dusting off this time as the Washington region prepared for what threatened to be the worst storm of a long season of cold and snow.

Although the forecast of at least four to eight inches of snow, plus sleet and freezing rain, would draw snorts of laughter from those who live not so terribly far to the north — Philadelphia and New York have been snowbound this year — Washington battened down for weather paralysis.

The federal government decided at about 10 p.m. Wednesday to close offices on Thursday. D.C. government offices are closed, and public schools throughout the region are closed as are all of D.C.’s charter schools. Georgetown, George Washington, American University and the University of the District of Columbia all canceled Thursday classes.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang forecast that four to eight inches of snow would be on the ground by 7 a.m. Thursday, with greater accumulations possible locally. Within 15 miles of Interstate 95 and points east, snow was likely to mix with and change to sleet and freezing rain between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.

In western Fairfax and Montgomery, snow was expected to continue, possibly bringing several more inches of accumulation.

As the first dusting of snow covered the District’s sidewalks and streets, at least one Yellow Cab driver was unfazed by the prospect of yet another snowfall.

“The weather is going to do what it’s going to do,’’ said Charles Smoke, 55, a car salesman who was working on a day off as a part-time cabbie. “I’m gonna go out here right now and get me some fares while I can.”

The declarations of snow emergencies were more than show: They mean that vehicles parked on designated snow emergency routes have to be moved to clear the way for plows.

“We are ready, our equipment is ready, and we have plenty of salt,” said William O. Howland Jr., director of the District’s Department of Public Works. “Of course, if enough snow accumulates, we will plow the streets.”

Howland said that under the snow emergency, which went into effect at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, vehicles parked on those routes would be towed and their owners would face a $250 fine plus towing fees. “We’re going to impound every snow-emergency vehicle,” he said.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) also declared snow emergencies that prohibit cars from parking on designated emergency routes.

“There’s a big swath of nasty snow and ice that’s moving up the East Coast,” O’Malley said during an early afternoon news conference Wednesday. “It’s a big storm, and it has the potential to do a lot of damage.”

The prospect of significant snow followed by ice and rain put power lines at risk.

Pepco, which serves the District and much of the Maryland suburbs, said it had about 600 linemen ready to react.

Virginia Dominion Power warned customers to be prepared for prolonged power outages should ice or wet, heavy snow down lines. The utility said it was working through the Southeastern Electric Exchange to make sure additional resources were available. About 700 non-Dominion line crews from states as far away as Michigan, Louisiana and Oklahoma were scheduled to be in the region through Friday, according to the Dominion Web site.

The District and state agencies in Maryland and Virginia said they had plenty of salt despite a winter that has consumed thousands of tons of it.

Maryland has used about 319,000 tons of salt and has more than 240,000 tons available.

“We are moving some salt within our districts in preparation of this storm,” said Valerie Burnette Edgar of the Maryland State Highway Administration. “Higher snow accumulations require more plowing, less salting. The sleet, freezing rain, ice storms obviously require more salt use.”

Virginia’s Department of Transportation has used about 157,000 tons in the northern counties adjacent to the District and has 65,000 tons on hand.

“We are in very good shape,” said agency spokeswoman Joan Morris.

Morris said the agency’s storm budget for Northern Virginia is $63 million.

“We already spent $83 million,” she said, “and this could easily be a $30 million storm.”

The Montgomery Department of Transportation has spent $13 million on snow removal, of which $3 million went for salt, spokeswoman Esther Bowring said.

She said that in years such as this, the agency requests supplemental funds to cover the excess cost.

In Prince George’s, where $2.8 million was allocated for snow removal this year, the county has spent $7.4 million, officials said.

In Southern Maryland’s Charles County, $1.1 million had been spent through the most recent snowfall last week, far exceeding the $782,100 that was approved for this year’s snow-removal efforts.

Steve Staples, chief of the road division in Charles, said that preparing for the ninth storm this year requires slowing down other services, including trimming trees and cleaning ditches. And agencies have to make sure to get enough salt because demand across the region can affect deliveries.

“It has definitely been busier than other years,” Staples said. “We are on storm number nine. In years past, we have had two or three storms.” Charles is preparing for four to 10 inches of snow Wednesday night.

“We are hoping for rain,” he said.

In Richmond, the House and Senate sent their teenage pages home for the weekend, fearing that by the end of the week, parents wouldn’t be able to travel to pick them up.

“Some of them live in southwest Virginia, and we just wanted to be sure they got home safely,” said Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar. But legislators in the General Assembly, which has called only one snow day in the past 40 years, expected to work no matter what the weather is.

“We’re planning to go ahead,” Schaar said.

Lori Aratani, Mike DeBonis, Mark Berman, Donna St. George, Laura Vozzella, John Wagner, Ovetta Wiggins and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

Get updates on your area delivered via e-mail

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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