The area’s second major snowstorm this winter delivered up to 7 inches of wet, heavy snow early yesterday, causing schools to use snow days some didn’t have, straining maintenance budgets for state and city highway administrations and delaying flights at airports.
An accumulation of 6.6 inches at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport brings the area’s official total snowfall to 18.2 inches this winter, a National Weather Service meteorologist said. That is just above the annual average of 18 inches.
Police from the District, Maryland and Virginia said the storm caused a fair number of traffic accidents. But major arteries were not clogged because the storm peaked during early morning hours, allowing plows and salt trucks to treat the roads without obstruction.
“It’s always a blessing when it hits overnight,” said Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Lora Rakowski of the Maryland State Highway Administration said, “We were able to keep up with the storm. Our crews were able to get out to the roadways and treat them because of the lessened traffic.”
The D.C. government declared a snow emergency from 9:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. so that snow plows could clear curb lanes.
“We were prepared and ready and waiting for this storm,” said Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works. “There was no point at which [the snow] actually got ahead of us, so we feel pretty good.”
The first winter storm Dec. 5 dumped 6 to 8 inches of snow on the area. Yesterday’s heavy snowstorm, which started Thursday night, pushed snow removal budgets to their limits.
Maryland’s SHA was $7 million over their $21 million budget before yesterday’s storm, Ms. Rakowski said.
“We’ll make a budget amendment and present that to the state legislature in late spring. They’re usually pretty generous with that,” she said.
Ms. Rakowski said the last budget amendment for an additional $15 million was presented for fiscal year 2001 and was granted.
The District was $500,000 over its $3.2 million budget for snow removal, but DPW Director Leslie Hotaling said she would worry about the bill later.
VDOT had spent $42 million of its $48 million budget prior to this storm, according to Ms. Morris. She said yesterday’s snow removal efforts would cost more than the remaining $6 million and that VDOT would have to reallocate funds within its $878 million maintenance budget.
The storm wreaked havoc on allocated snow days of local school, many of which have used up their quotas or are at their limit. The District, Maryland and Virginia require schools to operate 180 days each school year.
District public schools used the last of the four budgeted snow days for the school year yesterday. An extra day could be added to the end of the school year in June or made up during spring break, but first, the makeup day must be approved by union leaders, a District public schools spokesman said.
Arlington students have lost four days of school due to inclement weather. Classes will be held on President’s Day to make up for a snow day in December. Students can forget about a long weekend at the end of May because classes will be in session on Memorial Day to make up for yesterday’s snow day.
Three days may be added to the end of the school year if it’s required because of wintry weather closures, an Arlington schools spokesman said.
Alexandria public schools have used two of the three snow days allocated for the year, spokeswoman Barbara Hunter said. Fairfax County public school officials could not be reached for comment about makeup days yesterday.
In Maryland, yesterday marked the fifth emergency snow day for Montgomery County, which will extend the school year for one day, or until June 19. Prince George’s County schools already have used three excess snow days, so classes will continue through June 20, instead of ending June 17.
The storm caused significant early morning problems at local airports. At least 32 flights were canceled at Reagan National, there were major delays at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and one runway at Washington Dulles International Airport was temporarily closed. Maryland State Police estimated there were about 41 storm-related accidents and about 40 stranded vehicles on major roadways, while Virginia police reported roughly 19 accidents in Northern Virginia.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.