- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A second blast of winter weather was expected to coat the region with ice last night, creating treacherous driving conditions this morning and the possibility of outages by the afternoon if tree limbs weighted with ice crash onto power lines.

As the Washington area continued to dig out from the about 4 inches of snow that fell Sunday, forecasters predicted heavy freezing rain this afternoon lasting 3 to 6 hours, followed by light snow expected to start after 7 p.m.

The Potomac Electric Power Co. had several hundred emergency workers in the area Sunday night. Some of the extra linemen and tree crews stayed in the area last night in preparation for the outages expected from the ice storm today, said company spokesman Robert Dobkin.

A quarter- to a half-inch of ice can cause small branches to fall onto the lines, he said, but more than a half-inch causes “big problems.”

The National Weather Service canceled a winter storm warning last night, but a winter storm watch remained in effect for the ice storm.

“The biggest concern is significant icing,” said Louis Rosa, a meteorologist with the agency. “We’re looking at up to a quarter-inch of ice.”

Mr. Dobkin urged people to stay away from downed power lines. Outages and downed lines should be reported to Pepco by calling 877-PEPCO-62.

Most primary roads in the District had been plowed by midmorning yesterday, though some major arteries in places such as Georgetown, Friendship Heights and Capitol Hill were sloppy with snow and slush well into the afternoon.

“It’s too cold,” said Homer Kirby, who supervises snow-removal crews for the D.C. Department of Public Works. “If it was warmer, [the snow] would melt much faster.”

Meanwhile, some D.C. residents already had grown impatient for the city to plow their neighborhood streets. But city officials said they could guarantee only that secondary streets will be “passable” as opposed to plowed clean like primary roads.

“They didn’t come last night or all day,” said Roy Moore, 37, a U.S. Postal Service worker living in an apartment building in the 2700 block of R Street NE. “You got elderly people in this building afraid to come out.”

Georgetown resident Abbey Griffin thought differently. “I think they do a pretty good job,” she said. “This only happens once or twice a year, and they only have so many plows.”

Chrissie Pasquesi, a Chicago native in her freshman year at Georgetown University, was not as forgiving.

“The streets aren’t really plowed, and it’s hard to get around, at least on foot,” Miss Pasquesi, 18, said. “The sidewalks aren’t scraped at all.”

In the District, residents and building owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalks, though city officials admitted yesterday that the rule rarely is enforced with citations.

Road crews were scheduled to work round-the-clock for the second consecutive day today plowing streets and spreading salt, said Bill Rice, spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation.

“We’ll be both on the main arteries and in the residential areas,” he said. “We’ll keep the trucks running and putting salt down.”

Mr. Rice urged people to stay home and avoid driving or use public transportation. “If you must drive, please drive carefully,” he said. “And the same goes for pedestrians. The sidewalks are dangerous, too.”

But cold temperatures and slippery roadways could not keep some from their appointed rounds.

Dr. Gurmit Singh Aulakh led four other Sikhs in a protest outside the Indian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue NW, saying minorities are persecuted severely in India. “We have the flame of freedom that warms our insides,” he said.

The District lifted snow emergency and related parking restrictions yesterday at noon. By then, more than 800 motorists had been fined $250 each for parking on snow-emergency routes; about 700 of the vehicles were towed.

Motorists can pay the fine or appeal the ticket within 30 days to avoid further problems. Those trying to locate their towed vehicles should go the municipal Web site at www.dc.gov and enter the tag information or call the District’s parking enforcement division at 202/541-6078.

In Maryland, the storm Sunday night dumped as much as 8 inches in places such as Westminster and contributed to dozens of car accidents, including one fatal wreck in which a car skidded out of control and ran over a man using a snowblower.

Most roads in Maryland were passable and open by midmorning yesterday, but road crews were bracing for the freezing rain expected by the afternoon rush hour.

“Our biggest concern will be the temperature and the freezing rain,” said Valerie Edgar, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. “The way we’ll battle the freezing rain is with salt, salt and more salt.”

The snow also hit Virginia hard, leaving about 4 inches in places such as Manassas and up to 7 inches further west in areas such as Winchester. Transportation officials said temperatures in the mid-teens yesterday kept de-icing chemicals from melting most of the snow on the roadways in Northern Virginia, and traffic accidents abounded.

“There are spinouts all over the place,” said Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. “That’s simply because people are going too fast.”

Schools were closed and some workers granted liberal leave in the District, Maryland and Virginia. More of the same was expected today.

David Drebes contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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