The Washington region on Sunday lurched fitfully from under one of the heaviest snowfalls in memory, with federal and local governments set to be closed on Monday, the Metro system prepared to offer severely limited service Monday, and authorities warning that it could take days for the plows to reach some residential streets.
Metro, which records more than 730,000 rail trips on an average weekday, said it would resume service on a fraction of its operations — partial service on three underground rail lines and 22 bus routes — after being shut down for the weekend by the storm.
Virtually all school systems and colleges in the region said they would be closed Monday. The federal government and state and county governments also said they would be closed Monday.
Authorities urged drivers to stay off the roads and pedestrians to stay out of the streets. They said that digging out from a storm that lasted almost 36 hours and delivered more than two feet of snow in some areas will hobble movement well into the workweek.
In addition to paralyzing the region, the storm brought airplane traffic in and out of the region’s three major airports to a virtual halt. Reagan National and Dulles International airports said late Sunday that their runways had been cleared of snow to allow limited operations to resume Monday, but flights weren’t expected to return to normal for days, causing the U.S. House of Representatives to cancel an abbreviated session that was planned from Monday to Wednesday.
The last of the snow fell in the region around 11:45 p.m. Saturday. Totals ranged from 10 inches to 35 inches and more, with the heaviest accumulation to the north and west of the city, outside the Capital Beltway. The National Zoo in Northwest Washington got 22.4 inches; Hyattsville, in Prince George’s County, got 25 inches; 30 inches fell in Manassas; and Round Hill, in Loudoun County, got three feet.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) asked people to be patient, saying that “getting back to business as usual will take time.”
Gregory Johnson of the Maryland State Highway Administration said the state’s primary roadways will be cleared by Monday morning. The secondary roads will still be snow-covered, “with a lot of work to be done.”
“I’m pleased with the progress that we’ve made,” said Hogan, reiterating his appeal for drivers to stay off the roads. “We’ve been lucky with no fatalities. We want to keep it that way.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and the state’s transportation secretary, Aubrey Layne, toured the hardest-hit areas by helicopter Sunday. McAuliffe said Saturday that snow removal cost the commonwealth $2 million to $3 million per hour.
“It’s going to be one of the largest snow-removal efforts that we’ve had in Northern Virginia — one of the most expensive — because some of it’s so high,” Layne said. “It’s a lot of snow. It’s just a heck of a lot of snow.”
In the District, police said they would ticket and tow the cars of drivers who venture out and get stuck.
“If you come out, you get yourself stuck on one of our streets, I have to tell you: We will aggressively ticket you, and tow your vehicle,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Sunday. “We want to have tomorrow to keep cars off the road so we can continue to clear those major arterials.”
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the tickets could cost as much as $750, and she warned that people also could be fined for walking in the street.
“We’re going to have to start stepping up and being a little more aggressive about asking our public not to be out, walking in the streets,” Lanier said.
Metro will open at 7 a.m. with limited service on the Red, Orange and Green lines as follows: The Orange Line will run between the Ballston and Eastern Market stations, the Red Line will run between Medical Center and Union Station, and the Green Line will run between Fort Totten and Anacostia.
Trains will run every 20 to 25 minutes, the agency said. Fares will not be charged.
Buses will run on what Metro is calling “lifeline service” on 22 lines only, from noon to 5 p.m., every half-hour.
D.C. officials said there was no telling precisely how long it will take to clear the snow.
“Two feet of snow is a lot to move,” Chris T. Geldart, director of the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said Sunday. “We’re going to be in our response phase for at least 24 to 36 hours, and the recovery phase for much longer than that.”
Authorities in Prince George’s County said nearly 80 percent of the county’s main and secondary roads have been plowed.
“For the next 48 to 72 hours we need you to be patient with us,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker (D). “We need at least 24 hours for us to clear the primary streets and secondary roads before we can get into the neighborhoods.”
The county government will be closed Monday.
“I know people want to get out of your houses and move around, but we need you to stay at home as much as possible,” Baker said.
Alexandria closed its streets to all but emergency vehicles Sunday.
“With about two feet of snow, we have had 50 percent more snow in the past 36 hours than we typically have all winter,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg (D). “The roads are still treacherous, and the roads will melt a bit each day and then refreeze each night.”
Silberberg said Alexandria had cleared virtually all its primary roads by late Sunday and that crews had shifted to secondary roads. She said residential streets would be tackled Monday or later.
Montgomery County officials said crews are focusing on plowing primary roads. After that, they will move into the 4,000 lane-miles of neighborhood roads, county spokesman Patrick Lacefield said.
“Crews are working around the clock, but we are not just having to plow, we are also having to carry away” loads of snow, Lacefield said.
Where to put the more than two feet of snow that accumulated in many areas was a problem for officials, businesses and homeowners alike. In a lighter snow, plowing it or shoveling it aside is relatively easy, but this was too much snow to be shoved to one side.
“Where are we going to put it all?” Hampton Inn manager Dorene Sapp said as she looked out from her hotel pavilion just off Leesburg Pike. “We are hoping for some melting but at this rate, I don’t know where it’s all going to go.”
Just finding a shovel to dig out cars was a problem at the Sheraton and Hyatt parking lots near Dulles International Airport.
Scott Morris, a Dulles Airport police officer who stayed in a hotel rather than driving home to the Shenandoah Valley, was close to digging his car out after a grueling hour. He brought his own shovel, which another guest offered $250 to buy.
“I said, ‘At this point, pal, there’s not enough money in your pocket to get this from me,’ ” Morris said.
When Ray Atkins’s neighbor, a tax judge, said he was due in court in North Carolina on Monday, the neighbors in the 1500 block of Garfield Street in Arlington went to work.
Shovels deployed, six people cleared the three-foot-deep snow from the driveway and sidewalks so that the judge could get out. But while the judge may be able to leave his driveway now, he’s going nowhere else because the block, just off Wilson Boulevard, is packed deep with snow.
Even before the snowfall began, Ngozi Johnson knew she’d need a strategy to deal with her daughter’s boredom from being stuck indoors. Thinking back to her own childhood — when she and her siblings would fan out across their neighborhood and help people dig out — Johnson went to Lowe’s and bought two shovels. On Sunday afternoon, with the District buried under two feet of snow, she; her daughter, 13-year-old Nandi Johnson; and her daughter’s best friend, 12-year-old Wendell Wray, hit the streets.
“I thought this would probably be the best time to learn the true value of a dollar,” Ngozi Johnson said.
Also recognizing a fresh entrepreneurial opportunity, Noel Lemus, Marcio Cruz and Osmin Fuentes were out at 9 a.m. Sunday with snow shovels ready.
“We’ve been doing this for five years,” said Lemus, who said the men worked as electricians but shoveled snow on weekends as a side job.
Lemus said he grew up in El Salvador and then spent 18 years in Southern California before seeing snow for the first time in Washington about six years ago. Asked whether he ever thought he’d be shoveling snow, he shrugged.
“It’s just like the work in my home country,” he said.
But it doesn’t snow in El Salvador, he was reminded.
“No, but shoveling the dirt is the same.”
It was shoveling with a deadline for many people, including Brian Boxman of North Potomac.
He also wanted to be done digging out by 2:59 p.m. so he could get settled in front of his big-screen TV for the AFC Championship match between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. His vision of the game, a beer and maybe nachos, kept the snow flying.
“I’m under pressure,” he said as game time neared.
Meanwhile, the number of people who died as a result of the storm increased.
A Leesburg man had a heart attack and died early Sunday morning while trudging through waist-deep snow in an attempt to go home after working at a convenience store that had stayed open through the storm, police said.
The man, whose identity has not been released, was in his 50s and collapsed around 2 a.m., police said. A resident saw him fall into the snow, called 911 and pulled the man inside a nearby home. Emergency responders were unable to revive him.
“If the gentleman had been walking home on a sunny day, he probably would be alive,” said Leesburg police Lt. Brian Rourke.
The man had tried to drive home after his shift at the convenience store, in the 700 block of Fieldstone Drive NE, but he abandoned his car after it got stuck and tried to walk the rest of the way home, Rourke said.
Virginia authorities have attributed at least four other deaths to storm-related causes, and the storm had claimed at least 19 other fatalities nationwide as of Sunday morning.
Other deaths included traffic fatalities, those from heart attacks while shoveling snow and two hypothermia deaths. One shoveling death was that of a 49-year old man from Abingdon, Md., northeast of Baltimore.