- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

The D.C. region slowed to a crawl yesterday as the largest snowstorm in a decade shut down area airports and forced the closing of major shopping malls, supermarkets and home-improvement stores.
Only Washington Dulles International Airport with one open runway allowed flights to take off and land throughout yesterday, with mostly international flights arriving sporadically.
"If the airlines tell us they want to get a flight in or out, we try to create an environment to do that," said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Tom Sullivan. "Departures are very few and far between."
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was closed by about 9 a.m. yesterday, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport was closed by 8 a.m. Nearly all airlines canceled their flights to and from the area.
Mr. Sullivan said United Airlines, the major airline flying out of Dulles, decided to cancel all of its flights by yesterday afternoon. Airport officials said yesterday they hoped to resume a more normal schedule today but that decisions would be made based on when the snow stops.
The National Weather Service is predicting heavy snow until about 2 p.m. today, tapering off to light snow until 5 p.m. Total accumulation is expected to reach as much as two feet throughout the region.
"I think it would be safe to say that [todays] flights will be severely affected," Mr. Sullivan said.
Area supermarkets remained open as long as possible while keeping a close eye on the storm. Most Safeway stores closed by 6 p.m. yesterday, but many 24-hour supermarkets, including the Georgetown Square Giant Food in Bethesda, said they would not close. Other Giant stores closed as scheduled at 10 p.m. and said they would reopen this morning at 6 a.m.
Meanwhile, anyone still in need of a shovel to dig out the car probably was out of luck.
Lowe's Home Improvement spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said the company closed all 18 stores in the region by 11 a.m., citing concern over the safety of workers heading home. She said there was no timeline as to when stores would reopen.
"We're just watching the storm," she said.
Many Home Depot stores throughout the area closed as early as noon yesterday, as managers weighed the value of keeping doors open to serve the few customers who could make it in. What's more, many stores were sold out of products such as shovels and salt.
"There was a huge run on many products before [Fridays] storm," said Home Depot spokesman John Simley. "There's no point in staying open when you're out of things and can't serve the customers."
Many store managers struggled to find workers capable of getting to work, and few were willing to risk having employees trapped in the store as snow piled up overnight.
Major shopping malls in the area closed early yesterday, including White Flint Mall, Tysons Galleria, Tysons Corner Center, Bowie Town Center, Springfield Mall and Lakeforest Mall. Most were expected to reopen today.
Hotels in the region saw arrivals drop and cancellations soar, though some said they were nearly full because many visitors decided to stay an extra night and wait out the storm.
Ed Rudzinski, general manager of the Marriott Wardman Park, said his hotel was expecting 570 new arrivals but just a handful actually came 380 guests who had been scheduled to leave decided to stay.
"We're still going to run about a 98 percent occupancy rate," Mr. Rudzinski said.
The hotel's biggest concern was a lack of housekeepers. Just 45 of the normal 110 workers were able to make it into work yesterday, Mr. Rudzinski said.
While getting around town by car proved tricky yesterday, Metro was still running on a limited schedule. Metro trains were scheduled to stop at each station once per hour, with buses stopping only on main routes. Metro trains also were operating with fewer cars.
Virginia Railway Express canceled all service yesterday and suspended service today.
Amtrak closed nearly all rail service from Washington to Florida and said it would put stranded passengers in hotels. Service from Washington to Boston was expected to continue uninterrupted.

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