Metro shut down rail service for the weekend at 11 p.m. Friday, and Roscoe Bridges feared that relying on public transportation to take him to his overnight security shift once the snow started accumulating would be too risky.
So he trekked from his Southeast Washington home to the Harper apartment building on 14th Street NW at 3 p.m. — eight hours before his shift started. Once he arrived, Bridges soon learned that one of his co-workers would not be able to traverse the city to make his shift, forcing Bridges to pick up the extra hours. He though he might have to stay in the building over the weekend, sleeping in a vacant apartment.
“I had no choice — I just had to be here,” Bridges said. “It’s been a bad experience.”
Bridges is one of the many workers in the region who must still make it to work in the blizzard conditions — a feat complicated by Metro suspending rail and bus service for the weekend. Officials say the closure is probably the longest in the transportation system’s 40-year history.
Still, many of the restaurants and shops in the more pedestrian-heavy areas of the city remained open amid the weekend’s blizzard. In the Bloomingdale neighborhood, the Grassroots Gourmet owner, who lives near the bakery, was able to open early Saturday morning to customers who were in search of baked goods and coffee.
Logan Hardware on 14th Street NW had enough employees in walking distance to open. It was not at full staff, but it did not have enough customers to warrant more than the dozen employees on hand.
“For a Saturday, it’s way below the normal number of customers,” employee Mark Rakes said. “It’s mostly people coming in for shovels, salt and bootees for their dogs’ feet.”
Other businesses that wanted to continue operating Saturday had to put their workers in hotel rooms. The Giant Food store in Shaw had 25 employees, compared with the typical 60, on duty and paid for hotel rooms at the Cambria hotel nearby.
Ron Holmes, the store manager, said when he saw the storm was coming, he put rooms on hold at the hotel. When he learned Friday that Metro would be closing for the weekend, he booked the rooms.
“We knew it was going to be bad, so we told everyone they are going to be working long shifts,” said Holmes, who lives in Bowie, Md., and was staying at the hotel over the weekend.
Ted’s Bulletin on 14th Street NW, a diner that typically has a two-hour wait for brunch on the weekends, also booked hotels for about a dozen of its workers. A chef with an SUV transported employees between the hotel and restaurant.
“We asked people, ‘Who doesn’t want to stay home and wants to make money instead?’ And 12 people took us up on it,” said Dino Pinelli, the general manager.
Not every place opted to stay open. Mary’s Center, a non-emergency health facility with six locations in the region, was closed Saturday. Maria Gomez, president and chief executive of the organization, said she shuttered the locations because she did not want patients to make the trip.
“We need to make sure patients are safe. I didn’t want to put them in harm’s way because of the weather,” she said.
The center will still pay its employees for the snow days. And even though the Metro system’s closure made it nearly impossible for some to commute, Gomez said that she thinks Metro made the right decision.
“I think it was a smart thing for the Metro to shut down,” said Gomez, adding that she was worried about what would happen if one of her sick patients got stuck on a train during snowy weather. “Once you are inside that tunnel and something happens, it’s very hard to get to people.”