A major snowstorm forecast for Monday had winter-weary residents of the D.C. area bracing for as much as a foot of snow just a day after temperatures cracked the 50-degree mark.
The storm, which made its way across the central United States on Sunday, began with sleet early Monday and changed to moderate snow shortly before 6 a.m.
A snow emergency was in effect in the District at 7 a.m.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Witt said to expect around one-tenth of an inch of ice and said the precipitation would be all snow by daybreak. He said the snow should be moderate, but steady until 2-4 p.m., stacking up to around 8 inches in most areas despite a weekend that saw temperatures at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport climb to 52 degrees Sunday.
“It is quite normal,” Mr. Witt said. “March is a transition month — almost spring, but it is still technically winter.”
The forecast sparked a scramble in an area where local governments have already drained their snow-removal budgets and school systems have run out of snow days.
The District in advance of the storm declared on Sunday that a state of emergency would begin at 7 a.m. Monday, meaning motorists would have to move their vehicles from critical routes or face steep tickets.
Both the House and Senate cancelled Monday’s planned sessions Sunday afternoon, and later Sunday the Office of Personnel Management announced that non-emergency personnel in the D.C. area will have an excused absence. Workers tapped for telecommuting and emergency employees should follow their agency’s policies.
Metro announced it would suspend bus service Monday, and Amtrak planned a limited service schedule between the District and New York City.
Area airports on Sunday were also preparing for snow-removal operations as well as mass flight cancellations.
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Rob Yingling said snow-removal crews would be working at both Reagan National and Washington Dulles International Airport through the night.
“We have numerous personnel working. They are used to the equipment, especially this year. They practically live here,” he said.
Nearly 1,600 flights in the United States were canceled and another 1,515 delayed Sunday afternoon, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com. The bulk of the problems were in Dallas, Chicago and Newark, N.J. Another 1,115 flights for Monday were also already canceled.
Freezing rain and sleet moved across Kentucky, where parts of the state were expecting up to 8 inches of sleet and snow through Monday.
In the Midwest, arctic cold temperatures hit Nebraska. Forecasters said Sunday’s single-digit high temperatures could set records across the state. And wind chills 20-to-35 degrees below zero were reported Sunday.