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Next storm will be a breeze, weary D.C. area residents say

By Josh White and Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 15, 2010; B01

So, who's ready for Round 3?

With the Washington area struggling to recover from historic storms, forecasts project that more snow Monday will blanket the icy mountains that dot the region.

Officials in two jurisdictions issued unusual appeals Sunday, asking residents to help their school systems in their efforts to reopen. In Fairfax County, officials called for volunteers to clear paths so classes can resume Tuesday after being closed Monday for Presidents' Day. "Your community needs you," said Braddock District Supervisor John C. Cook, who issued a "call for shovels."

In a similar appeal, Arlington County called for property owners to clear their sidewalks. "It's going to take our whole village to get these children back to school," said Barbara Donnellan, Arlington's acting county manager.

In a sign of the severity of the problem that the Virginia jurisdictions hoped to overcome, Howard County school officials announced that schools there would remain closed Tuesday.

"Some streets are still covered with ice, and others are too narrow. . . . The high piles of snow create real visibility issues," Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said in a news release.

In the District, where front-end loaders and snow-laden dump trucks roared and beeped late into the night, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who had lifted a snow emergency Saturday, reimposed another, effective 9 a.m. Monday, to facilitate plowing.

The new snow system, termed an Alberta clipper, is expected to hit the area Monday afternoon and stick around until Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service is predicting a wintry mix to start midday Monday, and the Capital Weather Gang is calling for one to four inches of snow to top the already record-setting totals, especially north and west of the District.

"That sounds like just a dusting now," Edward Poe, 61, of Alexandria said Sunday while stocking up at Costco in Pentagon City. Drivers in the parking lot around him dodged mammoth snow piles and created parking spaces wherever cars could fit. "It can't get any worse than it's been," he said.

Two massive storms dropped more than 40 inches at Dulles International Airport over the past 10 days. Fresh snow and ice could further complicate efforts to clear choked roadways, lengthening already tough commutes.

In advance of the workweek, road crews across the region brought in heavy equipment Sunday to clear snow from major routes into and out of the District. The task of hauling snow away in dump trucks was made more difficult by heavy weekend traffic and stranded cars.

Karyn Le Blanc, a spokeswoman for the District Department of Transportation, said officials want to avoid a repeat of Friday, when commuters flooded roads that in some places were not ready for them. Many sat in traffic for hours.

Officials in Maryland worked to clear highways, particularly the shoulders, said David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The work was tedious and, at times, dangerous; early Sunday, a worker was hospitalized after a motorist hit his truck on Interstate 795 near Owings Mills Boulevard, Buck said.

Crews were making progress, Buck said, but drivers should expect longer commutes through Tuesday.

"It took us eight days to get into this snowy mess, and it's not going to rectify itself overnight," he said. "It's a very slow process right now."

Crews spent Sunday pretreating roads -- and praying.

"Hopefully it's just a blip on the radar, as opposed to a paralyzing third punch," said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. "Even the tiniest bit of sleet could turn the roads into an ice rink."

In calling for volunteer shovelers, Braddock District Supervisor Cook asked them to report to their neighborhood schools with implements anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to get their assignments.

"We don't want kids climbing over snowbanks and people walking in roads," Cook said.

Major roads in the District were largely clear Sunday afternoon, although many merge areas and shoulders near expressway ramps leading out of the city were still covered with snow, making for dangerous situations.

There were similar issues in Virginia. The Spout Run Parkway entrance to the George Washington Parkway south in Arlington, for example, had no merge lane because the lane wasn't plowed, which sent cars directly into fast-moving traffic. Cars came to a standstill along Route 1 near Potomac Yard in Alexandria when plowing crews blocked lanes.

Neighborhood roads also remained hazardous in many areas. Some were covered with several inches of ice, some were narrowed to paths wide enough for just one vehicle and others were mazes of snow piles and parked or stranded cars.

Limited visibility around corners also posed risks, and transportation officials urged drivers and pedestrians to use caution as sidewalks, trails and school bus stops could remain snow-covered.

Hoping to reload after last week's storms, Roslyn Sturdivant, 58, of Southeast Washington also headed to Costco in Pentagon City and filled a cart. She needed supplies, but she wasn't concerned at all about Monday's possible storm.

"I have plenty of coffee, tea and water in case I get stuck," Sturdivant said. "But there's no point in worrying. You can't do anything about it."

Staff writers Jennifer Buske, Amy Gardner, Hamil R. Harris and Martin Weil contributed to this report.

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