Metro trains were scheduled to operate every 30 minutes this morning and some major roads showed signs of blacktop last night, but Washington area transit and highway officials warned that it could be several days before things get back to normal.

People planning to hike out of their neighborhoods to get to public transportation probably will find it slow going.

Metro aimed to have all stations, including those above ground that were closed yesterday, open by 5:30 a.m. today, spokeswoman Cheryl Johnson said. However, trains that usually operate every five minutes will be running every half-hour.

All 1,100 Metro buses will be operating, Johnson said, but they could be delayed 30 minutes or more. Metro said the buses would start running at 5:30 a.m. on main roads, following a Sunday schedule.

"People have to be very patient on both systems," Johnson said. "Buses will still be getting stuck."

MARC and Virginia Railway Express trains are canceled again today. The Maryland Transit Administration also canceled commuter bus service. Amtrak expected to have most of its trains between Washington and points north running close to schedule, but service south of Washington probably will not resume until at least noon because of track problems, a spokesman said.

The Washington region's three airports planned to have runways open this morning, but major delays were expected until airlines could rebook thousands of passengers and get schedules back on track. Airport officials recommended that passengers check with their airlines before making the trek to the airport.

Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International airports remained closed yesterday. BWI officials said they expected a limited schedule of arrivals to begin this morning, departures in the afternoon.

Dulles International kept at least one of its three runways open throughout the storm, but airlines canceled about 95 percent of flights yesterday because planes were socked in along much of the East Coast.

Not all was disruption and delay, however. Nancy Page of the District said Amtrak whisked her from New York to Washington, "through the heart of the storm," in five hours. She said she found Amtrak's performance "incredibly terrific."

The Presidents' Day holiday gave crews a head start on clearing roads before rush-hour traffic hit them, and they hoped that closure of the federal government and schools today would give more time to dig out neighborhood roads.

"We are in no way ready for a big crush of traffic," said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us. The roads will not be back to normal for several days," Morris said.

Morris said 40 percent of VDOT's plows focused on subdivisions throughout the storm, but the smaller equipment takes longer to clear the snow. Plowing could mean more digging for residents, Morris said, with vehicles parked on the street ending up buried in the newly plowed snow.

"We know that's a frustration, and we apologize, but there's really nothing we can do," Morris said.

Officials in the District and in Montgomery and Prince George's counties said they expected it would take two to three more days to clear all neighborhood roads.

"We're dealing with 12 to 25 to 30 inches of snow, depending on where you are," said John W. Thompson, chief of Montgomery's Division of Highway Services. "It's a whole lot different from what we've dealt with in the past. It's going to be a long process."

People who relied on Metro trains and buses yesterday faced frustrating trips, some spending more than four hours to make a trip that usually takes 30 minutes. Trains operated only between underground stations once an hour. Some buses that were supposed to ferry people from aboveground Metro stops to their closest underground stop ran two hours behind schedule.

Mike Phinney and his wife, Jolene, left the Holiday Inn downtown yesterday morning to catch a train to BWI for a flight home to Salt Lake City. Their first hurdle: the four-stop Metro journey from McPherson Square to Union Station.

"Two hours to catch two trains, bud," said Mike Phinney, 41.

The snow left others stranded.

"I've been right here," said Althea Codrington, 22, pointing to a cast-iron bench at the Greyhound bus station in the District, where she spent two nights. "That wasn't no sleep."

Pedro Robles-Colon, a Bronx native and U.S. Navy boatswain's mate, cut short his bus journey home to visit his fiancee when the snow accumulations mounted. Yesterday, he sat cross-legged on the floor at Union Station, eating Chinese food out of a foam container.

His Navy travel orders have him flying out of Newport News tomorrow morning, heading for the Middle East.

"I'm ready to go and do what I've got to do . . . to defend the country," Robles-Colon said.

But first, he had to get out of Washington.

Staff writers Caryle Murphy and Martin Weil contributed to this report.

Neighbors on Sage Court in Crofton, including Joe Borneman, left, Dave Kelleher and Mike Murtha, get a head start on the snowplows.Paul Harrison and Georgie Mills of Suffolk, England, rest at Dulles International Airport after their flight was canceled.With some Metro stations closed, passengers like these, waiting for a bus at the Takoma Metro station, hoped for alternative modes of transportation.