- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

The latest winter storm to hit the Washington area could dump as much as a foot of snow by tomorrow morning after arriving earlier than forecast yesterday, causing more traffic problems and forcing some school systems to add another day off.
Calvin Meadows of the National Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling, Va., said yesterday's snowfall was just the first wave of a storm headed east-northeast from northern Mexico and Texas to the East Coast, and that "more significant" accumulations were expected today and tonight.
The National Weather Service says 3 to 6 inches of snow are expected to fall during the day today with an additional 2 to 4 inches tonight, adding on to the 1 or 2 inches forecast last night.
The earlier-than-expected onset yesterday morning caused morning rush-hour traffic accidents and delays on untreated roads and forced many school districts to close early.
Officials yesterday recorded 1.4 inches of snow at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 1.8 inches at Washington Dulles International Airport and 1.7 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The region still was reeling from the effects of a storm that left up to 2 feet of snow on parts of the region 10 days ago and heavy rains that caused flooding over the weekend.
Most school officials said any announcement regarding closings or delays would be made early today, although Stafford, Prince William and Fairfax counties in Virginia announced last night that schools would be closed today. The D.C. government, which coordinates with the federal government on closings, did not enact a snow emergency and was not expected to make any decision on closings until past midnight.
Officials at Reagan, Dulles and BWI airports said crews remain ready to treat runways and taxiways but don't expect today's snowfall to be a problem.
All three airports remained open through yesterday's storm, despite minor delays stemming from de-icing of planes and weather problems in other parts of the country.
Before hitting the D.C. area, the storm dumped more than a foot of snow in Arkansas and contributed to at least 14 deaths across the country.
In Texas, six persons were killed in weather-related traffic accidents, and three immigrants died from hypothermia. In Arkansas, five persons died in traffic accidents, including a stranded motorist and two persons who had stopped to help.
The storm arrived in the District at about 5 a.m., five hours earlier than had been forecast. Heavy squalls and slick streets plagued the morning rush hour, and most school systems closed early after holding classes based on the early forecasts.
Officials in Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Fairfax County, Alexandria and Arlington closed schools early. The District and Anne Arundel County maintained normal schedules.
"It kind of threw everybody for a loop," said Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman Sandra Dobson. "We can't foresee with any certainty when snow is going to happen. All information said late this afternoon and evening, and that's what we were gearing up for."
In Virginia, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Joan Morris said snow-removal crews did not deploy fully until 10 a.m.
"The storm was supposed to begin after rush hour," Ms. Morris said. "That's what we had from the National Weather Service. We got hit well before the rush hour. We were able to get several hundred trucks out there because we had skeleton crews working, but we weren't able to fully mobilize."
Heavy rains over the weekend washed away salt and deicing chemicals spread last week, and the early arrival of the storm led to several fender benders.
Ms. Dobson said road treatment was further complicated when salt trucks became stuck in traffic.
"All anybody's talking about is their nightmare commute," Ms. Morris said.
Drivers reported that a normal one-hour drive from Warrenton, Va., to Washington on Interstate 66 took as long as four hours.
Prince George's County Fire and Rescue spokesman Mark Brady said the department handled 79 motor vehicle crashes between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., though none was serious. He said the county has between six and 12 crashes on a typical day.
In Montgomery County, fire and rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said emergency workers responded to "dozens" of calls, most on the county's roads.
A Montgomery County fire engine responding to a traffic accident in the northbound lanes of Interstate 270 south of Montrose Road was rear-ended by a Jeep at about 10:50 a.m. The driver and the passenger in the Jeep were transported to a hospital for evaluation. No one else was hurt.
D.C. Department of Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini said snow-removal crews began working 12-hour shifts yesterday that were to continue around the clock at least through tomorrow. About 130 trucks, including 40 small vehicles designed to handle narrow streets, were deployed.
"This is a lesson we learned from last week," Mr. Tangherlini said. "We have already moved into the neighborhoods."
He said plowing operations won't begin until at least 2 inches of snow accumulates on city streets and that the additional snow has suspended pothole patching.
The cost of removing snow is piling up almost as fast as the snow.
"Spending is high, high very high," said D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams. The city had budgeted $3.2 million for snow removal this year. Before yesterday's storm, city officials had spent $3.7 million.
Ms. Morris said Virginia had overspent its $48 million snow-removal budget by $40 million.
"We're looking at upwards of $100 million of snow removal for this year," she said. "We haven't had that sort of expenditure since the blizzard of '96. That one we spent $120 million."
Ms. Dobson said Maryland is $20 million to $25 million over its $21 million budget for snow removal.
Brian DeBose and Jon Ward contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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