- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

D.C. officials declared a snow emergency last night and began plowing and salting roads as the first flakes began falling of a storm expected to dump as much as 7 inches by this morning.

Forecasters expected the snow would give way to freezing rain this morning, possibly creating dangerously icy conditions for commuters.

The first snowflakes fell in the District shortly after 8 p.m., and by 10:30 area roads were already covered with a layer of snow, forcing Metro buses to avoid side streets due to slippery conditions.The brunt of the storm was not expected to hit the region until about 3 a.m., several hours before today’s morning rush hour, and could to produce whiteout conditions, forecasters said.

“It’s going to be the biggest one of this winter,” said Andy Woodcock, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Public schools are closed this morning in Alexandria and Falls Church and in Alexandria and Prince William counties. The Archdiocese of Washington has announced that its elementary schools in Montgomery County are closed today, and Georgetown Preparatory School and Trinity College also are closed.

More closures and late openings are expected for schools in the Washington area, and parents are advised to check the status of schools this morning.

As the storm moved up the East Coast yesterday, sleet began falling in central North Carolina by 6 p.m. An hour later, light snow began dusting Chaptico, Md., about 50 miles south of the District. Shortly afterward, the first flakes fell in the metropolitan area along the Capital Beltway in Prince George’s County.

Much of western Virginia received 4 to 7 inches of snow by Sunday evening before the precipitation changed to sleet and freezing rain, a spokesman at the Blacksburg, Va., office of the weather service said. The Richmond area saw 2 to 3 inches of snow and was receiving sleet Sunday evening, a weather-service spokesman said.

The slow-moving storm is not expected to reach New York and other regions of the Northeast until tomorrow.

The weather service said forecast models were conclusive enough to predict a 100 percent chance of snow and issued a winter-storm warning from northern Baltimore to Prince William County in Northern Virginia.

The Washington metropolitan region is expected to receive 3 to 7 inches, and central Maryland is expected to receive up to 8 inches.

Maryland’s Eastern Shore counties are expected to see 4 to 8 inches inland and 3 to 5 inches along the coast. Mr. Woodcock said 5 to 10 inches could fall in Washington and Allegany counties in Western Maryland.

He also said the snow would likely change to freezing rain and sleet Monday.

“It could still be messy at least until Monday night,” he said.

The storm built during the weekend into a classic formation for significant snowfall along the Eastern seaboard — tracking across the country and the Gulf of Mexico, then colliding with the arctic air that has hovered over the region for nearly a week.

Normal temperatures for this time of year are in the low 40s. Yesterday’s temperatures were in the 20s, and today’s temperatures are expected to be in the low 30s.

“This is traditionally the coldest part of the year,” Mr. Woodcock said. “But it’s colder than normal, which is an essential ingredient if you’re going to have a lot of snow.”

The D.C. snow-emergency plan that began last night at 9 prohibits cars from parking along snow-emergency routes that are marked with red and white signs.

Municipal crews will issue violators a $250 ticket and can tow vehicles to nearby side streets.

Roads crews from across the region had a false alarm Friday night when a storm skirted the northern edge of the region and only dusted roads. However, they worked into the night spreading salt and other de-icing agents on bridges, overpasses and main streets.

Many of those crews returned to work yesterday in preparation of today’s storm.

“Our crews were all ready again today at noon,” said Paul Jackson of the Arlington County Public Works Department.

State crews in Virginia were given orders to start when the snow began falling and to focus on clearing the interstates and major throughways, then begin working in subdivisions to clear side streets.

D.C. crews in snowplows hit the streets last night at 7, again targeting bridges, overpasses and main streets before hitting commuter routes prior to rush hour, then moving to residential streets, said Karyn Good, information specialist for the city’s Department of Transportation.

The MARC train system adjusted service in anticipation of snow and ice on the tracks this morning. On the Camden and Brunswick lines, only trains with an “S” at the top of the column will operate. The trains will make all station stops, so commuters should still drive to the nearest MARC station.

The Penn line was expected to operate on a normal schedule this morning, though riders were advised to check the system’s Web site (www.mtamaryland.com) for any late changes and for news about the afternoon schedule.

Amtrak expects to run a normal weekday schedule today. But rail travelers are encouraged to reserve tickets in case airline flights are delayed or canceled and those travelers try to book trains instead.

Amtrak employees were inspecting parts of the tracks last night that are most prone to freezing to ensure heaters were working. Trains were loaded with sand to assist in braking and stocked with shovels, salt and de-icing products. Repair cars were also stationed along the Northeast corridor between the District and Boston so crews could respond quickly to weather-related problems involving overhead power lines.

The region’s major airports last night reported no change in schedules but said crews were prepared for the snow and ice.

A spokeswoman at Baltimore-Washington International Airport noted that it is up to airlines to cancel flights, though airport officials will close the facility during major weather events. The spokeswoman recommended commuters call airlines directly to check on the status of flights.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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