The federal government told its employes to come to work today, although the District of Columbia and the Metro transit system expressed doubts about their ability to handle rush-hour traffic in the wake of Friday's paralyzing blizzard.

There were also reports that a new storm is on its way here that could begin in mid-morning and bring accumulations of one to three inches of snow in parts of the area.

Authorities said conditions were beginning to return to normal on most main roads, particularly in the suburbs, but many secondary and residential streets remained clogged. The District reported that it was "down to half" its normal capacity to accommodate commuter trafic and urged the use of car pools or public transportation.

City officials said they would begin this morning to ticket and tow the thousands of abandoned cars that have hindered plows on major routes.

Two of the major commuter routes into the city, Shirley Highway (I-395) and I-66, in Virginia will be open to all traffic today, with the normal rush-hour car pool and express-lane restrictionsremoved.

Metro authorities, saying they expected that rail service would be sharply curtailed and that many of their buses would not run, asked federal officials to excuse all but essential employes.

In a statement last night Metro urged "those passengers who can avoid traveling" to stay home.

But a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management said a large majority of the area's 330,000 federal workers do not ride Metro, and "it would be silly to tell them to stay home." Employes arriving late would not be penalized and a liberal leave policy will be in force, the spokesman said.

In the city and the suburbs, local government officials said their offices would be open for business as usual. Some emphasized that leave policies would be liberal, and in at least one Virginia jurisdiction a government spokeswoman predicted that rush hour would be "pretty difficult."

Most area public schools will be closed.

As the holiday atmosphere that had characterized much of the snowbound weekend here faded and area residents began to confront the problems of getting to work today, attention appeared to be concentrated on the difficulties posed by snow-clogged side streets.

In Virginia, authorities said they expected to work through the night on residential streets and Fairfax County officials said they hoped to have 80 percent ready for traffic.

In the city, D.C. Transportation Director Thomas Downs said crews would attempt to plow at least one lane on all but the most difficult residential streets last night.

However, he said, once motorists entered arterial roads this morning, they would be unable to turn off, explaining that side streets would not be ready for substantial traffic loads.

"Once motorists start on major routes," he said, "they are fully committed."

Moreover, he said, once downtown, motorists might find that as many as half the spaces in parking lots have not been plowed.

"It's going to be difficult if not impossible for motorists to use a lot of the lots," he said.

City crews have been prevented from dealing with side streets by the need to give priority to major commuter arteries.

With these routes still snarled, Downs said, the city, which has thus far been "very forgiving" toward motorists whose stalled cars are blocking highways will start ticketing and towing at 5:30 a.m. today.

He said double-parked vehicles will be first to go, followed by those that have been left in bus lanes.

In the meantime, he listed the following city roads as those that are now in the best condition and "can come close to handling rush-hour traffic."

Arizona Avenue NW, Canal Road, Foxhall Road, Georgia Avenue, Military Road, Missouri Avenue, 16th Street NW, Bladensburg Road NE, East Capitol Street, Suitland Parkway and 17th Street NE. He cautioned against particular difficulties on C Street NE, Constitution Avenue NE, Dalecarlia Parkway NW, Naylor Road SE and 13th Street NE. Many of those have only one open lane in spots, he said.

The area's public transportation system, overwhelmed on Friday and Saturday by the crushing burden of one of the century's great blizzards, began struggling back into operation yesterday, but Metro officials did not expect they could approximate normal operations today.

On the Red Line, which normally operates between the Silver Spring station in Montgomery County and the Van Ness-UDC station in Washington, service would be confined in the morning to the segment between the Rhode Island Avenue and Van Ness stations.

On the Blue-Orange Line, no rail service will be provided this morning between the Addison Road and Stadium-Armory stations, Metro said. Officials said that on both the closed sections of track, which run above ground, ice had frozen over the third rail.

Officials said the ice had to be removed by hand and all available general maintenance workers had been assigned to the task.

Meanwhile, they said, buses will be operated between Silver Spring and 11th and E Streets NW in the morning. The same T17, T19, R11 and R15 buses that generally pick up passengers at the New Carrollton stations in the evening, will be available for boarding this evening at 11th and E streets.

Transit officials said 18 additional trips will be made in the morning from Silver Spring on the 70, 71 and 73 routes to bring passengers to Southwest Washington employment sites. The buses would return from there at night, the officials said.

Transit officials also said Metrobus routes "will operate on a normal schedule as much as possible." Routes where service would be reduced were to be selected this morning based on road conditions.

Ted Weigle, Metro's assistant general manager for traffic operations, said he anticipated a "very, very slow Monday bus operation." Rail service will be less frequent and will involve shorter trains, he said.

Earlier in the day, when it appeared service would be reduced even more sharply on Metro's Red Line in particular, Metro authorities had asked the federal government to give employes the day off.

Last night, after announcing the enhanced service, Metro said it was still encouraging people to stay home.

Although declining to define "essential," Weigle said he would "certainly think only essential work trips" ought to be made.

He said it was his personal feeling that "if I had a lot of annual leave, I'd certainly enjoy a Monday off."

In Northern Virginia, the state highway chief for the region, Donald Keith, said that "everybody ought to leave early and be prepared to get there late." If possible, he added in an interview, people should stay home.

In announcing that federal offices will be open today, but with a liberal leave and late-arrival policy in effect, Patrick Korten, the OPM spokesman, said it was understood that many roads had not been completely plowed and that many subdivisions had not been plowed well or at all.

As a result, he said, arrivals as much as two hours later than normal would be excused without penalty. Excuses for longer delays would be at supervisors' discretion, he said.

In addition, he said, employes relying on the portions of the Metro system that are not expected to operate "will be encouraged to give serious thought to making use of the liberal leave policy."

While about one-quarter or one-third of the federal work force uses Metro, Korten said, "a great many federal workers will be able to get to work without Metro . . . . "

He said that in deciding whether federal workers should be excused, "We're making a 30-million-dollar decision here . . . . and I'm not going to spend 30 million because a portion of the Red Line is going to be out."

Meanwhile, Washington's problems were reflected elsewhere along the Eastern seaboard, where many streets in such cities as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston, remained clogged with waist-deep snow.

Philadelphia's airport finally reopened yesterday at 9 a.m. after being shut for 41 hours. In the New York area, LaGuardia, Kennedy International and Newark airports, where a total of about 8,000 travelers had been stranded for more than a day, also reopened yesterday.

A total of 14 deaths were attributed to the storm in New York State, five in Massachusetts and four in Pennsylvania.

In the Washington area two deaths were attributed to the storm. An unidentified man was found frozen to death on the Ellipse Saturday morning, and a Springfield man died Friday after suffering a heart attack while shoveling snow.

Emergency rooms reported an increase in the number of persons treated yesterday for fractures suffered in falls on the ice.

At both National and Dulles International airports here, operations were close to normal yesterday.