- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2002

Washington's first snowfall of the season slowed travel in the air and on trains yesterday, but created mostly minor inconveniences locally.
While the snow fell in the morning, delays and cancellations were common at the area's three major airports. By midafternoon they diminished to scattered delays or cancellations as airport employees cleared the runways.
"The day has gone as well as can be expected," said John White, spokesman for Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
About 6 inches of snow fell in the District and up to 8 inches in other parts of the region.
Railroads, too, were hit by conditions that slowed air travel.
Ice and freezing rain caused problems on railroad tracks from Manassas to Greenville, S.C., delaying some commuter trains and forcing some routes to be canceled.
Bad weather forced Norfolk Southern Railway Co., based in Norfolk, to close an 80-mile stretch of tracks in North Carolina, spokeswoman Susan Terpay said.
An estimated 300 trees and limbs fell on tracks throughout North Carolina. That forced Amtrak to cancel one train bound for Charlotte, N.C., Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel said.
Problems with signal equipment on Norfolk Southern tracks in Manassas delayed one Virginia Railway Express train, but no trains were canceled.
Eight Amtrak trains running on tracks owned by CSX Corp. were delayed. Six of the trains were bound for Miami or leaving that city. Northeastern routes were largely free of problems, Mr. Stessel said, though there were late-afternoon delays of up to 30 minutes.
Many of the Washington area's commuter rail services had fewer riders yesterday. The most dramatic decreases were on Metro service. The commuter rail service saw ridership fall nearly 25 percent.
By noon yesterday, Metro had 209,420 riders.
That was down from the 274,414 riders Metro had through noon on Nov. 21 a typical Thursday.
The Maryland Transit Administration's Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) service said there were fewer riders than the typical 25,000 commuters that use the Camden, Brunswick and Penn lines each day. But the transit administration didn't have accurate figures to chart the decline.
"It's purely anecdotal, but we're sure it's down," MARC spokesman Frank Fulton said. "A lot of people are staying home."
But Amtrak reported that afternoon trains were sold out.
That was likely because snow-covered roads persuaded people who would have driven to their destinations to board trains instead, Mr. Stessel said.
Metro ran trains throughout the night on Wednesday and yesterday morning before opening for business to prevent snow and ice from accumulating on tracks, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.
"That seemed to be helpful," she said. "Because we had so much advance notice [of the storm], we were prepared."
About 50 Metro buses got stuck in snow yesterday, and 11 were involved in minor accidents. A fire on Metro's Red Line delayed trains briefly yesterday afternoon.
All three airports operated on a "ground-delay program," which is airline language for a reduced schedule of flights because of the weather conditions.
The airlines also had watched the weather reports to prepare for the snow.
"We were ready for it," said Dave Castelveter, US Airways spokesman.
The Arlington airline canceled 15 flights out of its normal 328 daily departures and arrivals at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. It canceled one flight out of 46 departures and arrivals at Washington Dulles International Airport. Five flights were canceled out of 86 departures and arrivals at BWI.
For most passengers, "It's not bad at all," Mr. Castelveter said. However, he said passengers whose flights were canceled might have different feelings.
"It's all relative," he said.
One of the unhappy airline customers was Bob Swift, a business traveler from Mattoon, Ill., trying to get home.
"The flight keeps getting delayed," he said. "I'm going to travel tomorrow."
Felicia Sawyers, a Tampa, Fla., resident, said she was delayed when her first scheduled flight from Chicago was canceled.
Richard Gauthier, a Montreal businessman attending a biotechnology conference, said the worst problem he encountered was slipping and sliding on the roads to the airport.
"The cab ride was a little more exciting than usual," he said.
The snow created an argument between Southwest Airlines and BWI officials over whether snow plowing was adequate.
As Southwest Airlines airplanes waited to take off, airline employees sprayed the wings with de-icer. However, snow on the runways prevented them from leaving.
By midafternoon, Southwest Airlines used up 25,000 gallons of de-icer.
"At one point, the planes were sitting there and we had used all our de-icing material," spokesman Ed Stewart said.
BWI officials were unavailable for comment on the snowplowing dispute.
Only 40 of Southwest Airlines' normal 140 flights were able to leave BWI. By late afternoon, more de-icer was delivered and the runways were plowed.


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