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Correction to This Article
This article, in reporting that a family member delivered a baby when a woman went into labor at a house in Takoma Park, said responding emergency vehicles became stuck in a snowbank, implying that they did not make it to the scene. A Montgomery County fire department official said records show that crews arrived at the scene within eight minutes of the 911 call, assisted with the birth, and took the mother and her newborn to a hospital.

Washington area digs out from record-setting snowfall

The storm that pummeled the Washington area Dec. 19 is the largest one-day snow in more than 70 years. As much as two feet of snow buried some parts of the region.

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By Ashley Halsey III, Sandhya Somashekhar and Josh White
Monday, December 21, 2009

A day after a record-setting snowstorm emptied shopping malls, transformed traffic-clogged roads into ghostly lanes and reduced the Washington region's famous road-ragers into whimpering Sunday drivers, the area resumed a sense of normalcy -- with a few exceptions that are likely to make the Monday-morning commute problematic for those who must travel.

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Metro officials said that it was reopening the aboveground stations on the Red Line to Shady Grove on Sunday night and that crews planned to work all night to try to reopen the other aboveground stations by 5 a.m. The aboveground stations had been closed since Saturday afternoon because of the wintry blanket that had settled on exposed tracks and rail cars, Metro officials said.

If many stations remain closed, the impact will be alleviated somewhat by the federal government's decision to close its agencies in the region and allow its workers to stay home. Still, the uncertainty is likely to throw off many workers' commutes, and Metro officials offered no guidance to riders other than to check the agency's Web site for updates.

Most school systems in Maryland and Northern Virginia announced that schools would be closed Monday. District schools are already on break.

Transportation officials in Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District said that main thoroughfares had largely been cleared but that many neighborhood streets might be blocked and that the continued frigid weather could make driving treacherous. A motorist was killed on Interstate 66 near Warrenton on Saturday in a crash blamed on high speeds and slick conditions.

The Baltimore Ravens' home game Sunday against the Chicago Bears was moved from 1 to 4:15 p.m. to give workers more time to clear snow before fans tried to make their way to M&T Bank Stadium. The Washington Redskins announced that they will bring in 1,200 workers to remove an estimated 25 million pounds of snow from FedEx Field and its parking lots before Monday night's 8:30 game.

At the snowstorm's peak Saturday afternoon, flakes were falling at a rate of two inches an hour. Some areas, particularly in Southern Maryland, had wind gusts of up to 40 mph. The total snowfall at Reagan National Airport was 16.4 inches, and as much as 23 inches fell elsewhere in the region.

That would be more snow in a 24-hour period than the region typically gets in an entire winter. According to the National Weather Service, the snowstorm ranked among the biggest in local history.

At Reagan National, which reopened its runways about midday Sunday, travelers gazed at lists of canceled or delayed flights and in some cases made other plans.

Sharon Smith of Germantown gave up on a trip to see her mother in Florida after Delta Air Lines said that the soonest she could get rebooked was Wednesday. Getting home wasn't going to be easy, either; the Metro station that serves the airport is aboveground and was closed. So Smith grabbed a spot on the floor outside the Metro station's locked doors.

"I'm just going to wait for Metro, however long that takes," Smith said. "This is all just ridiculous."

Shoppers slowly returned to malls Sunday after the storm had effectively canceled the busiest shopping day of the holiday season. Most area shopping centers opened on time Sunday morning after closing early Saturday when roads became impassable and public transportation shut down. But many shoppers were kept busy shoveling until early afternoon.


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