- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

More snow, more traffic headaches and more school cancellations are expected today. The only consolation may be that area residents can brag they've survived record-breaking snowfall totals this winter.
"It's been a snowy winter, as everyone can attest, and I think everyone is tired of it," said Steve Zubrick, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, which has issued a winter storm warning for most of the region through noon. About 5 to 10 inches are predicted.
Snow began to fall about 3:30 yesterday and by early evening about 1 to 2 inches had fallen, snarling rush-hour traffic and increasing the likelihood that school districts would cancel school today. Several schools, including those in Fairfax and Prince William counties, were closed yesterday after about two inches of snow Wednesday night, and most schools canceled after-school and evening activities last night.
The District implemented its snow emergency plan at 6:30 p.m., requiring that vehicles be left off main routes or risk towing and a $250 fine.
The accumulation today will only add to what has become the snowiest month in Maryland's history, and it could make 2003 the snowiest year in the history of the state.
The 1.8 inches recorded at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Wednesday brought the total this month to 37.8 inches. The previous record of 33.9 inches was set in 1899, when records were kept at Johns Hopkins University. The total amount of snowfall in 2003 is 52.9 inches 9.6 inches short of the 1995-96 record of 62.5 inches.
At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 25.1 inches of snow had fallen this month through Wednesday, and the total snowfall for this winter was 36.7 inches. The District's record for most snow in February is 35.2 inches, set in 1899. The most winter snowfall in the D.C. area was 54.4 inches in 1898-99, when records were kept at a weather observatory on M Street NW.
The second-highest winter snow total at Reagan Airport was in 1995-96, when 46 inches fell. A larger-than-predicted snowfall today could break that mark.
"We think it will accumulate, but there's a little bit of uncertainty in the exact amounts," Mr. Zubrick said.
Forecasters had more difficulty pinpointing accumulations for the snowfall Wednesday and yesterday, compared to the Presidents Day storm when they accurately predicted that it would deliver up to two feet of snow.
A meteorologist at the National Weather Service's national forecast center said the different computer models they use to make predictions have generated "pretty wide disparities" for this storm.
However, Mr. Zubrick was certain the area would have significant accumulation.
"We're going to have deal with another event," he said.
School officials were prepared last night to cancel another day of classes, despite already having exceeded the allotted number of snow days.
"If there's snow that endangers the safety and well-being of kids, then we won't open," said Brian Porter, spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools.
Schools are required to be open 180 days every academic year, but schools in Maryland can accept a waiver granted by the State Board of Education last week to reduce that number by two. Montgomery County and other school districts had decided to extend the school year by two days and have classes on a regularly scheduled teacher work day before the snow starting piling up last night.
A canceled day today could cut into the spring break or force students to attend classes on Memorial Day and other scheduled days off.
Schools also could choose to extend the length of some school days to make up for lost time, as the Prince William County school board did yesterday. Prince William students will be in school a half-hour longer each day starting March 17.
Road crews in the region prepared to battle yet another major storm.
"We're definitely hoping this is the last big one," said Robert Marsili, chief of the D.C. bridge and street maintenance division.
Highway officials said that they had crews salting and pre-treating roads yesterday and would have them working 12-hour shifts through the night plowing and salting.
"We're assuming we're going for a foot," said Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. "We're bringing everybody in. We prepare for the worst."
About 40 percent of VDOT's salt trucks yesterday were deployed first to Northern Virginia's 8,000 miles of subdivision roads, Miss Morris said.
During rush hour today, VDOT will not lift HOV restrictions on Virginia highways, she said. In Maryland, Kellie Boulware of the State Highway Administration said, "If we get enormous amounts of snow, we will lift those restrictions."
Metro officials said they were planning to run full service today, though about a fourth of their 832 train cars are not properly insulated.
After the Presidents Day weekend storm, Metro ran at 60 percent to 70 percent capacity for several days after a number of train cars were damaged by snow sucked into motors on trains not sufficiently insulated.
Metro spokesman Steve Taub said that the cars will run without problems in snow 8 to 10 inches deep, but "anything above that usually becomes an issue."
A law in Montgomery County requiring that sidewalks be cleared 24 hours after any snowfall was suspended by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, for the storm last week, but will be in effect for this storm. It carries a $50 fine.
Mr. Duncan, however, told WTOP Radio that not a single ticket has been written for violators. County spokeswoman Jean Arthur said the law wouldn't make sense if applied to landowners who never shoveled their walk after the first storm. Mr. Duncan said a few warning letters have been mailed by the county in response to complaints from neighbors, but added, "We are not looking to ticket people, we are looking to encourage people" to shovel their walks.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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