After trudging a mile through two feet of snow to get groceries Tuesday, Steve Schecter decided that he could not wait any longer for plows to reach his Olney neighborhood.
Schecter grabbed a shovel, and soon, other neighbors joined him blazing a car’s-width trail from his cul-de-sac to the main road. It remained the only track out of Meadowland Terrace as of Wednesday evening.
A normal bustle began to return to the Washington region Wednesday, with federal employees going back to work — as they will again Thursday, on a three-hour delay. District students were back in school, but some in residential neighborhoods and on side streets felt abandoned after waiting for a plow for four days after Snowzilla’s last flakes.
“It’s absolutely horrendous,” Schecter said. “I’m from Chicago. We don’t do this. We’ve failed to reelect mayors because they have done a poor job of clearing snow.”
Those who weren’t snowbound had a somewhat easier time of it, but they still faced long delays and crowding on mass transit and the roads. And parents in major suburban school districts from Fairfax to Montgomery counties learned that their children would stay home again Thursday. And in some cases, Friday, too.
Still, the storm’s lingering effects fell most heavily on people like Schecter, whose frustration was boiling over. Schecter said he had been calling his Montgomery County representative and the county’s 311 help line to get his street plowed.
He was told Tuesday night that his street would be plowed by Wednesday morning, but that didn’t happen. His street was cleared Wednesday evening. Yet that was hours after a county website that listed plowed roads showed his as having been completed.
Meanwhile, the government information technology worker said that he had been forced to telecommute for much of the week — and his two children were stir-crazy.
Schecter was not alone in taking up a shovel after a plow failed to materialize. After seeing no government-dispatched plow for days, Diane Thomas and her neighbors on Allanwood Drive in Aspen Hill also decided to free themselves.
The retired insurance worker, 65, joined a plumber, a school worker, a legal administrator and a rotating crew of more than a dozen other neighbors spending most of Tuesday shoveling so they would be ready for Wednesday’s commute.
The plowing issues come after Montgomery County executive Isaiah Leggett (D) promised that every road in the county would get at least one pass with a plow by 7 a.m. Wednesday.
“If we could have trusted them, and believed that by 7 a.m. the road would have been clear, we wouldn’t have done that,” Thomas said of the heavy labor in their Norwood Park-area community.
A Montgomery spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, said Wednesday that “we did do a first pass before this morning” on Allanwood Drive and that another was scheduled for later Wednesday. Overall, Lacefield said the county had performed well trying to make the streets passable.
“We did pretty good at meeting the 7 a.m. goal,” Lacefield said. But, he added, with 5,200 lane miles to cover, some oversights were inevitable. “We’re taking down addresses and sending out plows immediately to mop those up.”
Residents in parts of Virginia also were experiencing problems.
Arlington County reported late Wednesday afternoon that it had plowed at least a single lane on all of its streets and was moving on to widening the primary and secondary routes and addressing “trouble spots” in residential areas. The Virginia Department of Transportation handles major routes in the county, leaving only local roads to Arlington.
Residents aggravated by unplowed or incompletely plowed streets have caused phones at the county building to ring off the hook, and Greg Emanuel, the county’s director of environmental services, said Tuesday night that the county’s online form, where residents can report a “snow issue,” has been inundated with more than 4,500 complaints.
In addition, a new map of snowplows’ status, which is supposed to be updated every 12 hours, has marked some streets as plowed when they have not been. County Manager Mark Schwartz said he will consider whether an inaccurate map is doing more harm than good.
It wasn’t just the snowier suburbs that had issues.
District officials cleared side streets in Columbia Heights on Wednesday after residents complained of unplowed streets.
Amanda Oliver, a resident of Quincy Place, said plows tried to come down her street but abandoned the effort, leaving heaps of snow blocking the road. She managed to navigate Quincy Place in her Honda Civic on Wednesday morning, but the car fishtailed and chunks of ice thunked on the undercarriage.
“I think they were doing the best job they could,” Oliver said of the city’s plowing efforts. “I think they should have been more cautious about reopening things. Sending people back to work and school was an irresponsible decision.”
By late Wednesday afternoon, District cleanup crews were still dismantling towering snow piles and scraping neighborhood roads clean in 21 of 76 slices of the city, according to Christopher Geldart, emergency management chief for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
The crews were planning to work through the night to get roads “down to pavement” in all sections of the city by Thursday afternoon, he said.
At the same time, crews had been treating roads citywide before the expected freeze overnight Wednesday into Thursday. “We will be treating 100 percent to the District’s roads,” Geldart said.
The halting recovery continued on the work commute, as well. Metrorail resumed service on the Silver Line at 5 a.m. Wednesday, the last line to reopen.
Metrobus reported delays of up to 45 minutes Wednesday as buses navigated detours and plowed-in bus stops. It ran service on about half of its 300 lines and planned to provide modified service on all lines Thursday.
Schools in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as in Alexandria, announced that they will be closed Thursday. Schools in Fairfax and Prince William counties said they will be closed Thursday and Friday.
Moriah Balingit, Dana Hegpeth, Faiz Siddiqui and Patricia Sullivan contributed to this report.