Commuters who would normally flow through the turnstiles of the busy Silver Spring Metro station to start the workweek heeded alerts to stay away from the dormant transit system as Hurricane Sandy and its unprecedented date with wintry weather set in on the area Monday morning.
Gates on either side of the station were chained, and although there was no sign to explain the rare closure, it would be nearly impossible for area residents not to know why the system, area schools, early-voting sites and government offices went dark on Monday.
Weather appeared more soggy than treacherous in the early morning, yet the dreaded “Frankenstorm” that had crept toward a collision over a wide swath of the Eastern Seaboard was shaping up as predicted and was expected to gain fierce intensity. The storm was expected to drop up to 8 inches of rain on the capital region, with tropical-force winds of 40 to 60 mph during the storms peak from Monday afternoon to Tuesday morning, according to D.C. officials.
A state of emergency was declared in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia to marshal resources and free up federal disaster-relief funding. The storm was expected to hit the Mid-Atlantic coast late Monday, affecting roughly 50 million people from New England to the Carolinas.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told CNN early Monday that his state was utilizing all of its emergency operation centers and has 23 shelters “up and going.”
“We’re bracing for this huge storm, and it looks like it’s going to be taking that turn that was predicted, and it looks like it’s going to cut right across Maryland,” Mr. O’Malley told the news station. He said residents of Garrett County — the westernmost part of the state — are “pretty hardy people” who have been under a blizzard warning since Saturday evening.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray also called into the station and urged tourists in Washington to stay in their hotels instead of venturing out. The D.C. government and schools were closed, along with the federal government and many other local governments and school systems.
In the District’s Ward 5, an emergency shelter opened at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center to the North Michigan Park Recreation Center on Emerson Street in Northeast.
Back in Silver Spring, a pair of Caribou Coffee employees prepped for the day at the Blairs shopping center. An employee, who under store policy could not be quoted by name, said the cafe was “playing it by ear,” but they would likely shut their doors much earlier than their 10 p.m closing time for the safety of their workers.
Around the corner, customers made last-minute purchases at the Giant supermarket, where the bottled-water section was barren except for a few cases on either end of the aisle.
Rob Ryan of Silver Spring said he picked up some cranberry juice, toilet paper, asparagus and salmon after he was rerouted from his commute to Wheaton.
“They called and said, ‘Don’t bother coming in,’ ” he said.
Due south in the nation’s capital, the D.C. Department of Transportation urged motorists to treat signaled traffic intersections as a four-way stops. Although the city has 1,700 signaled intersections, the agency was only able to send generators to 200 major ones.
Besides Metro rail and the system’s bus services, the D.C. Circulator and Capital Bikeshare services were also unavailable on Monday.
Power outages remain likely during the height of the storm, with Pepco announcing Sunday it had secured more than 1,400 additional crew members from Southern states less likely to face the effects of the storm.