- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000

The Washington area could get several inches of snow beginning tonight as two winter storms that have coated the South and Midwest with snow and ice this week creep toward the East Coast.

The National Weather Service yesterday reported the low-pressure system is expected to hit the area about 8 p.m. and move out by tomorrow afternoon. It could leave enough accumulation to cause road or air-travel delays this weekend, when many travelers are expected to return home from the holiday break.

Meteorologists last night would not say how much snow will fall today and tomorrow because they do not know which path the storm will take once it hits the Atlantic region and heads up the East Coast.

But early reports suggest the storm could be about 150 miles off the coast, which would mean counties along the Chesapeake Bay and the Delmarva area could be hardest hit. Residents there could end up with as much as a foot of snow, meteorologists said.

"There's a lot of questions with this storm, simply because we don't know right now how it will move," said John Margraf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

"Once it gets into the Atlantic, it develops its own little characteristics," Mr. Margraf said. "That's why we don't know how it's going to develop, or how strong it's going to be … But we do know that the Washington area will be on the edge of its path."

Washington-area residents should be prepared, he warned. "Residents should definitely stock up on groceries and buy those snow shovels," Mr. Margraf said.

Airport and state government officials said yesterday they are prepared "for the worst" no matter how much snow the storm leaves behind.

Road crews in Maryland and Virginia have resupplied their salt-and-sand trucks since last week's snowfall and are ready to hit the streets once the storm rolls into the region.

"We're ready for anything that can happen," said Sandra Dobson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. "We're ready for anything that's thrown our way."

In the District, officials with the Department of Public Works will meet at noon today to implement the final deployment plan for tonight's expected snowfall.

"We're getting our equipment ready and making sure our trucks are full with salt and sand," said Leslie Hotaling, the department's interim director. "We are ready to go."

At the three area airports, work crews will be on call this evening and tomorrow to clear runways in case of snow. But airport officials warned travelers of possible delays.

Tomorrow will be particularly busy because many people are flying home from the extended holiday break.

"Any potential weather situation is a worry for our airports," said Tom Sullivan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. "But we have folks on staff who are watching the weather and will do their best to clear the runways."

The same weather system has been a headache for motorists and utilities across the South and northern parts of the Midwest, including Minnesota and Iowa, causing at least 37 deaths, numerous car wrecks and power outages.

Once the storm moves into the Washington area, it will run into cold temperatures that descended on the region this week. Temperatures in Virginia, Maryland and the District are expected to stay in the high 20s and low 30s through Monday.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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