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Busy rush hour as people head to work and shop

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16.4 inches of snow fell on Washington, D.C., over two days, making it the sixth-highest snow total on record. The 15 inches that fell Saturday made it the third-highest snowfall day ever.

Without confidence that residential streets would be safe for buses, administrators closed schools Tuesday in Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties. Schools in Northern Virginia and in Calvert, Frederick, Prince George's and St. Mary's opted to declare an early start to the holidays and will remain closed until after New Year's. Schools in the District and Calvert County had already begun their scheduled winter break.

"You know what Fairfax County's like," said Paul Regnier, Fairfax schools spokesman, explaining the decision to remain closed. "It's cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac. A lot of these haven't been plowed. . . . Our main concern, obviously, is the safety of the kids. We don't want them standing on the street waiting for the bus."

After a Sunday of snow-clearing, nightfall brought temperatures in the 20s, and by morning wet sidewalks were icy. That sent people tumbling, and many rolled into emergency rooms for X-rays, splints and casts.

"We had a total of 57 X-rays this morning for backs, ankles, hands and wrists," said Ron Harris, a spokesman for Howard University Hospital.

"The emergency room is very busy," said Justin Paquette, spokesman for Anne Arundel Medical Center. "There are a lot of folks coming in as a result of the weather. We are well above what we see on a normal day."

At George Washington University Medical Center, spokeswoman Heather Oldham said that most of the weather-related injuries there were more of the oh-my-aching-back variety.

"Today, we have had less than a dozen visits, mostly people complaining of injuries from shoveling," Oldham said.

With cars buried under snow mountains and walled into parking spaces and driveways by snowplows, digging out sidewalks was apparently a low priority in some neighborhoods.

D.C. law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks within the first eight daylight hours after a snowfall, according to the city Department of Transportation's Web site.

"Many sidewalks are still impassible, forcing pedestrians to walk in the street," said Department of Public Works Director William O. Howland Jr. "This is already a dangerous situation, made even more hazardous with our large plows out there on the road. We really need pedestrians out of the street to allow the plows to do their jobs without posing a safety risk."

Metro opened all of its all rail stations in time for the commute Monday morning, after aboveground service had been suspended for most of the weekend. The agency reported few delays. Metrobus service, which had been abandoned Sunday night because of ice, was mostly restored.

Salvaging holiday travel

Monday was the first time since Friday that the Washington area's major highways and three main airports were in full operation. Flights were operating with minimal delays, but thousands of people whose trips were canceled over the weekend flocked to airline counters in hopes of getting on another flight.

An estimated 2.5 million of the region's residents had plans to travel over the holidays, and heavy traffic on interstates 95, 270 and 66 suggested that many who were delayed had set out.

As people sought to drive, their cries for help were heard by AAA, which expected to receive 15,000 calls at its mid-Atlantic service centers. From midnight Sunday through noon Monday, AAA responded to 7,724 calls, about 55 percent more than normal.

"We understand that people want to be able to get their vehicles going, but with the volume of calls, we are focusing on those stranded away from their residences," spokesman John B. Townsend II said.

Staff writers Sholnn Freeman, Hamil R. Harris, Nelson Hernandez, Kafia Hosh and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.


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