However, D.C. officials asked residents to stay in low levels of their homes to avoid falling trees or heavy branches and to stockpile enough supplies to sustain themselves for 72 hours without power.
The storm is expected to hit the capital region the hardest between 8 a.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday, dumping 4 to 8 inches of rain at rates of up to 2 inches per hour, Mr. Gray said.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley issued similar warnings to people in his state ahead of the massive “killer storm.”
“It’s very, very important that everybody be vigilant,” Mr. O’Malley said at a Sunday afternoon news conference from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Reisterstown. “Be prepared for your own family with flashlights, radio, things you will need for extended days of a power outage for many, many Maryland families.”
Mr. O’Malley noted that Mr. Obama had declared the state a disaster area and that some low-lying areas of the state, including downtown Ocean City, had begun mandatory or optional evacuations. Mr. Gray issued a similar request for assistance.
In Virginia, residents along coastal areas were feeling the brunt of the storm by midday Sunday.
Gov. Bob McDonnell said forecasts have borne out to be mostly accurate, with 5 to 7 inches of rain and sustained winds of 40 to 45 mph expected through Tuesday.
“It’s going to get a lot worse than it is now in the next couple of days, especially in Northern Virginia on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said at a Sunday afternoon news conference.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced late Sunday that federal offices in the D.C. area would be closed Monday, except for emergency employees. The D.C. and Maryland governments followed suit
Sunday evening. Leaders in Virginia said they would make an announcement later Sunday evening about whether their government offices would be closed Monday.
D.C. Public Schools will be closed Monday — so no special-education buses will run — and Mr. Gray encouraged the city’s public charter schools to follow suit. Alexandria and Arlington public schools also will be closed Monday.
Public schools in Montgomery County and Fairfax County will be closed Monday and Tuesday.
Test for utilities
The storm will be a critical test for power utilities across the region. Pepco, the oft-maligned electric utility that serves the District and thousands of Maryland customers, faced intense criticism in August 2011 after Hurricane Irene passed through and again in late June when a devastating derecho storm knocked out power for up to a week in some households. The incidents prompted Mr. Gray to form a task force that is exploring the best way to mitigate power outages in the nation’s capital, such as burying power lines in high-risk areas.
Pepco has secured 1,473 additional crew members from Southern states that will be less affected by the impending storm, region President Thomas N. Graham said Sunday.