Crews working overtime to restore snowy roads to normalcy

By William Wan and Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 13, 2010; 4:43 PM

As residents tried to resume normal activities Saturday, snow removal crews throughout the region continued plowing, hauling and salting down as much of the snow and ice as possible. Their goal: to clear most streets by Sunday and to have things nearly back to normal before commuters hit the road Monday.

"We have some folks on the brink of exhaustion," said David Buck, spokesman for Maryland's State Highway Administration. Many crews in Maryland have been working 22 hours a day, catching sleep where they could, including in their trucks, he said. For the first time in days, those crews were downgraded Saturday to 12-hour shifts.

"Now they can at least sleep in cots in the maintenance yards," Buck said. "We need to get them rested up before the storm on Monday hits. Then it'll be all over again."

Traffic snarls were reported throughout the suburbs Saturday. Many looked in vain for mall parking spots on lots piled high with snow. Transportation officials throughout the area reported minor accidents from people unaccustomed to driving in such wintry conditions.

On many major roads in D.C., backups stretched for blocks as lanes and sometimes entire thoroughfares -- like Whitehurst Freeway and New York Avenue -- were temporarily shut down so trucks could haul away snow piles.

"You can only push it around so much," said D.C. transportation spokesman John Lisle. "At some point you have to start actually remove it." City officials planned to lift the snow emergency at 5 p.m. so that as more people go out, they can begin to park again in areas marked as snow emergency routes.

Virginia transportation officials said they planned to finish clearing most subdivisions by Saturday night and would spend Sunday wrapping up.

"We're particularly trying to get to the side streets we didn't get to before the second storm hit," said Joan Morris, a Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman. "We want people to understand, our priority is making all the roads passable. That doesn't necessarily mean their street will be shoveled right down to the pavement. It may still be rutted or snow-packed. We're trying to be careful about managing expectations."

Amid all the snow removal, however, transportation officials said they also had to juggle preparations for more snowfall Monday. "It doesn't look like we'll get much of a break," Morris said.

Staff writers Miranda S. Spivack and Jill Grisco contributed to this report.

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