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Days after storm passes, many still await the plow

Alana Anderson maneuvers down a snow-covered sidewalk in Adams Morgan. Most main roads were passable by midday Monday, but many side streets had not been treated.
Alana Anderson maneuvers down a snow-covered sidewalk in Adams Morgan. Most main roads were passable by midday Monday, but many side streets had not been treated. (Gerald Martineau For The Washington Post)

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By Sandhya Somashekhar and Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

At first it was fun, staying all cozy indoors and then venturing out for the occasional wade into the snow. But by Monday afternoon, the fact that Willa Reinhard's Southeast D.C. cul-de-sac had yet to be plowed even once had lost its novelty.

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"At this point, we've had our fun with the snowstorm and it would be nice to get back to normal," said Reinhard, who teaches English at a private school in the District. "We don't want to be stuck forever."

Days after the area received a snowfall that was measured in feet instead of inches, the clean-up effort is being calculated in intersections and blocks. As state and local agencies continue digging out, some roads have been scraped to the pavement; others remain buried, prompting complaints from residents in neighborhoods across the region.

"We apparently are in a section of this neighborhood that just doesn't rate, since everyone else is plowed," said Sue Merritt, a meeting planner who lives near the Glenmont Metro Station in Wheaton. "I wouldn't be nearly as upset if some of the streets around here hadn't been cleared."

In general, local agencies have sought to clear major through-ways first, followed by secondary and neighborhood roads. They are using computerized tracking systems to monitor progress in the neighborhoods, which they said are slowly but surely being plowed. By midday Monday, agencies across the region reported that most main roads were passable, but that many smaller roads remained a problem.

"We are working feverishly to hit every last street and every last cul-de-sac before the next storm hits," said Joan Morris of the Virginia Department of Transportation. "We understand the frustration people feel."

Area officials said they plan to stick to the same patterns Tuesday and Wednesday, when another major storm is expected to cover the area in snow. The only difference this time would be finding a place to put an extra foot or two.

But the pattern followed by clean-up crews was neither evident nor a solace to those still trapped in their homes as plows repeatedly cleared neighboring streets but passed theirs by. Officials urged patience as their offices were flooded with phone calls from angry residents complaining they couldn't leave their homes.

How governments handle the storm could have significant political implications, especially for area leaders up for reelection this year. They include D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Maryland Gov. Martin J. O'Malley (D).

Washingtonians have long memories when it comes to snow removal. Former D.C. mayor Marion Barry (D) suffered a blizzard of criticism for his decision to stay in California to watch the Super Bowl and play tennis during a double snowstorm in January 1987. It paralyzed the city for days with more than 20 inches of snow; Barry later apologized.

On Monday, Fenty urged patience, especially as a second winter storm headed toward the region, potentially undoing all of the plowing done so far.

"This is a big snow, but we're not making excuses. We'll get it all up," said Fenty, who reported having no trouble driving himself through the city Monday in a convertible SMART car.


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