Zach Burroughs of Arlington hurried with his ice cream cone back to work on Jan. 26, 2011, in Washington. (Ricky Carioti/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Office of Personnel Management said Wednesday morning that workers may use annual leave or earned time off or telework from home, if eligible. Employees scheduled to telework today must continue doing so, OPM said. Emergency, or essential employees, must report to work as normal.

The decision comes as snow is expected to begin falling later today across the Washington region, with from less than an inch to more than 3 inches forecast for some areas. As the region’s largest employer, the federal government’s commuting patterns have an overwhelming effect on area roadways and rails.

Informing federal employees of the decision before 11 a.m. — well before the afternoon rush hour — leaves time for workers to determine whether they should leave well in advance of the snow.

OPM revised its weather leave policy last fall after facing widespread criticism for botching an early dismissal last year. Officials acknowledged that the changes, which include giving federal employees more time to leave ahead of a storm, might create an embarrassment for OPM, but stressed the safety comes first.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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