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Snowstorm leaves D.C. area feeling powerless
Residents endure gridlock, outages
Question of the Day
Dominion Virginia Power, which at one point had about 192,000 customers in Northern Virginia without power, said Thursday night that about 24,000 remain that way. The utility expects to restore power to at least 90 percent of its cut-off customers by Friday night.
“We have about 2,000 workers engaged in our restoration effort, including crews from eastern and central Virginia and North Carolina assisting in Northern Virginia,” said Rodney Blevins, vice president for electric operations.
Another 39,000 Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. customers were still without power Thursday night, and 21,000 Delmarva Power customers were in the dark Thursday afternoon — each figure a fraction of the number at the storm’s peak Wednesday night. BGE expects some outages to last into the weekend.
Mr. O’Malley told reporters at a Thursday briefing that the General Assembly will look at legislation on utility reliability standards during this year’s session.
Wednesday’s blowing storm wasn’t as heavy as last year’s “snowmageddon,” when back-to-back blizzards paralyzed the area and much of the rest of the Northeast. But it did dump 4 to 10 inches of heavy, wet snow across the Washington region — twice what had been forecast for inside the Capital Beltway in Tuesday’s forecasts.
Philadelphia and New York also took unexpectedly heavy pummelings of nearly 20 inches of snow — also twice the expected amount and about what New York averages for a whole winter season. Boston also got a foot of snow, though that was more or less what New England had been bracing for.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters that the latest storm — his area has had snow eight times since mid-December — makes this January the snowiest since the city started keeping records.
However, the more northerly cities got hit in the evening and overnight, while Washington took the brunt at rush hour, turning motorists’ half- or one-hour commutes into nightmarish travel that lasted as long as, and in some instances longer than, their eight-hour workday.
Drivers sat for three hours on Interstate 295 to get from Northeast Washington to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Beltway.
“Then,” said Gustavo, who works in Northeast, “we sat another three hours in Fairfax. The Beltway from the Wilson Bridge to Braddock Road was clear.”
Some had a rougher go of it Wednesday night, including one of Gustavo’s friends. “It took him 12 hours to get home,” insisted Gustavo, who didn’t want his last name used. “He left work at 4 p.m. near Laurel and arrived home in Fairfax at 4 a.m.”
Part of the reason for the traffic gridlock rests with bureaucrats, most of whom do not live in the city. The staggered decisions put evening commuters on the roads just as D.C. school buses, salt trucks and snowplows, and additional empty mass-transit buses for the evening rush were hitting major corridors. And at exactly the hour of the storm’s greatest wrath.
At a hastily called news conference Thursday in Washington, OPM Director John Berry apologized for the awful commute, but insisted that it wasn’t his fault and added that many federal workers didn’t leave as early as they could have because, as late as 3 p.m., the skies still looked clear. By the time they left, it was too late.
“I don’t control the weather. I don’t control the roads. I control the work schedule,” he said, adding that Wednesday’s storm was “the fastest-accumulating storm I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
A Metrobus created a traffic jam near Tenley Circle in Northwest when it got stuck across several lanes of always busy Wisconsin Avenue. Good Samaritans and a better driver finally straightened things out, but like other unfortunate motorists around the Beltway, and on it, they abandoned the bus on the street.
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About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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