- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

The Washington area, still digging out of one of the worst snowstorms in history, is facing serious flooding by week's end as temperatures climb into the 40s and rain moves into the region.
Transportation officials say highways should be mostly clear today but that treacherous conditions will persist on many neighborhood streets and even on some major thoroughfares. Officials in Maryland, Virginia and the District are telling residents that some side streets may not be plowed until Friday.
Pushing the snow out of travel lanes is just the start of the job.
In Maryland and the District, officials were scrambling yesterday to find places to dump the tons of snow scraped off the streets.
Truckloads were dumped at the St. Elizabeths campus in Southeast yesterday, and officials looked for vacant city-owned sites suitable for snow dumping. Workers in Maryland were hauling off the snow with front-end loaders and dumping it into stone quarries, creeks, rivers and the grassy areas at park-and-ride lots.
Flights resumed yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports, but many remained stranded as they vied for a limited number of airplane seats.
"As US Airways explained to us, everyone's going nowhere fast," David Kiley said at BWI, keeping watch over a half-dozen 9- and 10-year-olds in wheelchairs who had flown from Charlotte, N.C., to Washington for a basketball tournament. They had spent two nights in a motel.
Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, appearing at a news conference yesterday wearing ski pants, and a D.C. Emergency Management hat and parka, said the city should be on a flood alert.
"It's going to be particularly acute in low-lying areas," he said, noting the flood-prone area of Bloomingdale and Ivy City along New York Avenue in Northeast, where there was severe flooding from heavy rain in August 2001.
District Water and Sewer Authority chief engineer Mike Marcotte said, "We're going to try to prepare for the worst."
Temperatures in the low 40s today and mid-40s tomorrow will start to melt the snowfall of 16 inches in the District and as much as 26 inches in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. And the melting process could be speeded up this weekend with an anticipated rainstorm, increasing the chance of floods.
"That's not good," said National Weather Service meteorologist Barbara Watson. "We will have snow melting and rain falling on top of it, and we could have some flooding problems."
Weather models predict that a rainstorm will move across the Ohio Valley and pump warm, moist air across the Washington area. The rain could start as early as Friday, but the bulk of the storm is expected late Friday night and into Saturday afternoon, she said.
Snow-clogged storm drains and catch basins can also exacerbate flooding. "Where's the water going to run? That's a problem everywhere, not just in the city," Miss Watson said.
Mr. Williams urged people to keep storm drains and catch basins cleared of snow. The District will have crews ready to clear the city's 25,000 catch basins as flood conditions develop, he said.
The Presidents Day weekend snowstorm tied for the fifth-worst in Washington's history, with 16.1 inches measured at Reagan Airport.
The measurement at Reagan Airport is the official reading for the city, but accumulation ranged from 16.5 inches in Tenleytown to 18 inches in Fairfax to 25 inches in Silver Spring.
Some were expecting to still be snowbound today in parts of Northern Virginia and Anne Arundel County, where the large plow trucks cannot reach cul-de-sacs.
"I'd be interested in statistics about how many families got divorced from all the time together they've spent," said a 30-year-old Pasadena woman stuck in her home since Sunday.
The snow yesterday collapsed the roof of the landmark Montgomery Donuts store and factory in Rockville, leaving 90 people jobless.
Most of the Washington area, however, missed the brunt of the storm. It left as much as 50 inches in parts of Western Maryland, where mountain elevations contributed to the heavy snowfall.
"It's up to my waist when I go to get firewood," said Tara Buck, 26, a Frederick resident who was still trying to dig out yesterday from the 50 inches of snow that trapped her in a hunting cabin in McHenry, in Garrett County, since Sunday. "I feel like I'm on 'Survivor.'"
The storm moved north Monday, dumping more than 25 inches on New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and 19.8 inches in Central Park, the city's fourth-heaviest accumulation. In Boston, the storm dropped 27.5 inches, beating the legendary Blizzard of 1978, when 27.1 inches of snow fell and caused 99 deaths.
This storm was blamed for 37 deaths on the East Coast before heading out to sea yesterday.
Virginia had overspent its $48 million snow-removal budget by yesterday. Maryland had overspent its snow budget, spending more than $25 million, and the District had spent about $5 million, and is also over budget.
The District lifted the state of emergency yesterday, but the snow emergency remained in effect until 10 a.m. today. Maryland and Virginia were still under states of emergency.
Though transportation officials expected highways to be passable, they told motorists that dangerous conditions would last at least until Friday.
"It's not going to be normal travel," said Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman Sandi Dobson. "There will be places with shoulder-to-shoulder clearance, but then, particularly around merge lanes, there might be just one or two clear lanes."
The situation was worse in Virginia.
"We expect the roads will be fairly treacherous," said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Ryan Hall. "I wish we had another full day without traffic."
He said the department, which is responsible for all snow removal in the state, might not get neighborhood and subdivision streets cleared until tomorrow.
Frazier O'Leary, 58, struggled to dig out his two cars on Farragut Street in Northwest, across from West Elementary School, where the mayor held the news conference yesterday.
"This is too much snow. I'm just trying to make it so if the snow plow ever comes, I'll be able to get out of here," said Mr. O'Leary, a Cardozo High School teacher who has lived in the city for 32 years.
News of the mayor's visit brightened Mr. O'Leary's outlook. "He'll see the street isn't plowed, and it will get plowed, I bet you," he said. Moments before the mayor arrived, two plow trucks carved a path down Mr. O'Leary's street.
As Mr. Williams walked toward the school, a woman on Farragut Street yelled at the mayor, saying the plows came for the benefit of the media.
"People complain because you didn't plow the street, and then they complain when you do," the mayor noted.
Prince George's County was leading the pack when it came to snow removal. They expected to have 90 percent of all the roads, including side streets, plowed by this morning.
"We're totally on top of our game and clearly ahead of schedule with regard to snow removal," said County Executive Jack Johnson.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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