- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

Nothing about the 20-foot-high mountain of snow packed in an abandoned Southeast D.C. parking lot yesterday would conjure up the image of sleigh riding.
The pile in a 2-acre lot at Independence Avenue and 19th Street SE, near D.C. General Hospital, was about 120 feet long and 30 feet deep. It also was brown and gray from sand and automobile exhaust and littered with concrete, soda bottles and newspaper.
D.C. public works trucks have been dumping the snow there and at another site under the South Capitol Street Bridge since Tuesday.
But it's slow going.
Department of Public Works spokeswoman Mary Myers said the municipal crews needed most of Tuesday afternoon to remove snow from six downtown blocks. She said that after the main roads were passable, the crews worked on the snow banks that obstructed drivers' views as they made turns.
"It's quite the operation," Miss Myers said.
She also said the holiday weekend storm that dumped two feet of snow on much of the region was the first to force the city to haul away the snow in trucks.
To accelerate the process, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced yesterday that the city had purchased a second-hand "snow-eating machine" for $150,000 from a manufacturer in Ohio who rebuilt the engine.
Due to arrive on a flatbed truck today, the machine will be put to work immediately. City officials said it will be capable of melting up to 40 tons of snow, or about eight truckloads, in one hour.
Mr. Williams said the city does not have its own machine because it rarely gets heavy snowfall.
That, however, doesn't mean crews will stop hauling. So the man-made mountains of snow are likely to continue growing.
"The important thing is we're not plowing it into the river, which is not an option," Miss Myers said. "The snow is treated with de-icing chemicals, which, while they're not toxic, are still there."
She said that as the mound melts into storm drains it will be filtered at sewage treatment plants before it reaches the Anacostia River.
In Maryland, State Highway Administration crews began hauling snow from acceleration and deceleration lanes on expressways and roads in more urban areas. Officials said they also are sensitive to environmental concerns.
"That's why we're not dumping it in streams," said Sandra Dobson, agency spokeswoman.
Maryland crews yesterday began taking snow by the truckloads from the roads of Montgomery and Prince George's counties to melt in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority rail yards that service Metro trains in the counties. Statewide, officials estimated about two billion cubic feet of snow had to be moved or removed.
Miss Dobson said it takes about twice as long to remove snow from roadways than it does to push it out of lanes. While it is not unprecedented for highway crews to haul away snow, she said snowstorms that require it are very rare.
Miss Dobson said the crews will keep hauling the snow "until it's gone."
In Virginia, officials hope the expected milder temperatures and rain will eliminate the need to haul snow.
Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said crews are "cruising subdivisions" with a continued emphasis on "pushing the snow back" from more than 15,000 lane-miles in Northern Virginia.
According to the National Weather Service, high temperatures Saturday could reach 50 degrees, with rain likely during the weekend.


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