Disruption Lingers in Wake of Weekend Storm

Alex Newburgh pulls daughter Gabriela in a sled along Sligo Creek Parkway in Silver Spring. Sledding will continue today for many: Schools are closed in several districts.
Alex Newburgh pulls daughter Gabriela in a sled along Sligo Creek Parkway in Silver Spring. Sledding will continue today for many: Schools are closed in several districts. (By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
By Elizabeth Williamson and Ray Rivera
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Weekend snow turned into weekday hassle for Washington area parents whose workplaces opened yesterday while their children's schools were closed and for thousands of homeowners still in the dark from power outages.

Most area schools -- and the largest systems, Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George's counties -- shut down yesterday. A few, including D.C. public schools, opened two hours late. School officials across the region said they planned to resume classes today, but at least one system, Anne Arundel County, announced that it would open two hours late.

Tamara Arsenault works for a humanitarian organization that responds to mayhem in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sri Lanka and other global hot spots. So when snow-related unrest erupts in Montgomery, her employer rolls with it.

"The nature of the work we do is often very chaotic. . . . They appreciate the need to be flexible," Arsenault said of her bosses at CHF International in Silver Spring. And flexibility was the rule yesterday in Arsenault's Silver Spring home, where she put her daughters, Stephanie, 9, and Marisa, 6, to work cutting paper valentines while she worked at the computer. At noon, the girls were still in their pajamas. "They've had enough," Arsenault said, preparing to spend the afternoon with her daughters.

Arsenault had no pressing meetings, but wondered why schools were shut, yet again, in what seemed fine weather. "I have felt that there were plenty of times when the roads were absolutely fine that they've closed -- like today," she said.

New York City's public schools opened on time despite the nearly 27 inches of snow recorded in Central Park. In Montgomery County, half that was enough to shutter the system.

Montgomery County officials blamed the snow. "We got clobbered with a lot more than we were expecting," spokesman Brian Edwards said. County school officials made the decision Sunday afternoon when crews that had been clearing snow since before dawn still had to plow 100 of the system's 194 campuses.

It can be a tough call in a sprawling county with complex weather. Saturday night, 11 inches of snow fell on Silver Spring, while in the county's northern reaches, snowfall topped 17 inches.

"A snow day decision is the most debated thing other than football on a Monday morning," said John White, spokesman for Prince George's County public schools, which closed yesterday. Officials cited power outages as one reason.

"Last night's decision was a lot faster," said Sandra Trueheart, a Defense Department employee who was staying home in Upper Marlboro yesterday with her 10-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. Usually the Prince George's school system, like the District's, decides on the morning of a school day whether to close, "which really doesn't help the parents," she said.

Fairfax County educators declared a snow day, as did their counterparts in Prince William and Loudoun, all large counties with many rural and hard-to-reach roads. Paul Regnier, a Fairfax schools spokesman, said officials patrolled several neighborhoods and saw that many bus stops and sidewalks were too treacherous.

The Washington region had more power outages than any of a dozen other states in the storm's path. More than 330,000 customers in Northern Virginia, the District and Maryland lost power during the storm. About 17,000 remained without power last night, mostly in Anne Arundel.

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Top 10 Snowstorms in Washington
Top 10 Snowstorms in Washington
The Washington Post - February 13, 2006
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