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Washington region digs out, but more snow ahead Tuesday

After two recent snowstorms closed the federal government and schools across the region, people began digging out. The season's snow tally in D.C. reached 55.6 inches Wednesday -- more than the last record of 54.4 inches, set in 1898-99.

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By Ashley Halsey III and Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 8, 2010

In the aftermath of the weekend's massive snowstorm, the region came to grips with the fact that digging out will take days, even as more potentially paralyzing winter weather appeared headed this way by Tuesday.

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Snow might be falling again by the time the first snowplow arrives to carve a path into some neighborhoods isolated by about two feet of snow from the storm that ended Saturday. Although the National Weather Service said the next storm had the "potential for more than five inches," other forecasts indicated that as much as a foot might fall.

"Four inches is a pretty good bet, and eight inches or more isn't out of the question," said Dan Stillman, a meteorologist with The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. "It will start out Tuesday afternoon or evening, possibly as a mix of sleet and snow. But after that, it will be mainly snow, with the heaviest overnight into Wednesday morning."

The more immediate threat to the region will come Monday morning. With temperatures in the teens overnight, the slush on cleared roads was expected to harden to ice.

"Any melting we got during the day, with the freezing overnight, is going to make black ice a very serious problem in the morning," said Neil J. Pedersen, head of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The region's largest employer, the federal government, will be closed Monday. Most regional governments will close or allow workers to take the day off, although the D.C. government said it will be open but one hour later than normal. The Virginia Railway Express canceled service. Every school system in the region said it would shut down. Some supermarkets opened, but people trapped by fallen trees and unplowed side streets could not get to them.

Metro said it would provide only underground rail service and limited bus service.

Dominion Power reported that about 12,000 customers were without electricity in Northern Virginia on Sunday night. Pepco said 46,000 homes and businesses in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and the District were in the dark. About 43,000 were in Montgomery County. Baltimore Gas and Electric had about 5,000 outages in Howard, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

Traffic conditions

With major highways open and, in some cases, clear, plowing crews across the region will begin to work their way into subdivisions and neighborhoods Monday in a rush to beat the next snowfall.

Montgomery crews plan to turn to residential streets Monday in an effort expected to last into Tuesday. Pedersen said that when motorists reach state roads, they shouldn't expect smooth driving.

"Drivers have to expect they are not going to have bare roadways with all lanes open," he said. "It's very slow and tedious work. We have snow piles that are six and eight feet high in the interchanges that have to be pushed back. We hope by Tuesday night we will have opened most of the roadways."

The Virginia Department of Transportation, which clears state and residential roads, said it had begun to tackle the 9,000 miles of subdivision streets.


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