Men and machines dug out most of the Washington area's main roadways, railroad tracks and airports yesterday, but The Great Snowstorm kept the Metro subway closed and there are no plans to reopen it before this afternoon, if then, Metro officials said.

"We have only a slight chance of afternoon subway service," Metro spokesman Cody Pfanstiehl said yesterday. "All of the trains are in the outdoor yards; until we get the yards dug out, we cannot run the trains. Otherwise we would run them in the underground sections."

The subway aside, most of the area's public transportation was beginning to perform yesterday and should be close to normal today, according to officials.

Unlike Monday, when few people throughout the Northeast were even able to get to airports or railroad stations to take what limited service was available, they showed up in large numbers yesterday.

There was heavy passenger traffic at National and Dulles International airports, and most airlines reported they were running behind schedule, but running. Baltimore-Washington International was reopened about noon. The three airports were operating with fewer runways than usual, and until the plows dig out all the runways, some delays can be expected.

Amtrak's Joe Vranich said that trains in the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston were running between 25 minutes and 2 hours late, and were carrying lots of people. The Metroliners did not operate yesterday, but are expected to run today.

Metro put about 500 buses on the street yesterday -- about one-third the normal rush-hour contingent -- and maintained service throughout the day on major, plowed arterials. About 90 percent of the normal morning rush-hour bus service is projected by Metro officials for today, and bus schedules will be adjusted to provide service to downtown Washington from outlying subway stations, Metro officials said. Buses will not run on neighborhood streets where they might get stuck.

Continental Trailways and Greyhound said yesterday that their longhaul buses were running, but about 35 to 40 minutes late. Neither company ran local commuter bus service yesterday; both expect to run commuter operations today.

While transportation officials were congratulating themselves for getting things started up again, the people who use the system were less thrilled.

"Out of service," muttered James Jones as he read aloud the sign on the empty Metrobus that passed him by on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. "I guess I'll get home sometime today." It took Jones two hours to walk from Hillcrest Heights, where he lives, to a service station near the Navy Yard, where he works.

A southbound Metrobus on Connecticut Avenue NW stopped yesterday morning at Van Ness Street to let off passengers, then slammed its door in the face of several who were waiting to get on.

Metro subway officials were unable to restore service despite having hired about 700 people to dig out the 10 miles of main line and two maintenance and storage yards that are located above ground.

Many more people showed up to work than Metro had jobs for (at $5 per hour) and there were instances of looting and vandalism involving disappointed job seekers.

Those problems aside, not enough track was dug out to open the subway this morning. Metro owns only one snow-blowing plow that it can run on the track, and that was being employed on the Red Line to Silver Spring yesterday.

Ralph Smith, the Metro supervisor charged with getting the tracks cleared, said that Metro hired as many people as it could supervise yesterday "and we probably exceeded that number somewhat." The reason the job was not completed, he said, was that "it was just a helluva big job."

Much of the main line was cleared yesterday, Smith said, but the outdoor stations and the platforms still had to be dug out. "We're working with as many people as we can to get that done," Smith said.

"Those drifts are 5 or 6 feet high at some places near Landover," a Metro official complained.

"All I can say is that we're just not equipped to handle a snowstorm that happens once every 57 years, said Nicholas J. Roll, Metro's assistant general manager for transit services.

Automobile and truck traffic was light throughout the area yesterday, according to police. Although most main roads were reopened, they had not been plowed clear from curb to curb and were in no position to handle a full, weekday rush hour.

"Our biggest problem is still stalled cars in the curb lanes," a Maryland police official said. "Until we get all of those towed out, we're going to have problems."