- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Winter was to return with a vengeance today with forecasters calling for up to 8 inches of snow by midnight.

“It has the possibility of being the biggest [weather] event we’ve had this year,” said Brian Guyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the entire Mid-Atlantic region yesterday. Forecasters said the watch may be updated to a warning later on, meaning there is a possibility of more than 5 inches of snow.

Even with the usual unpredictability of predicting the weather in the Washington area, meteorologists on last night’s evening news shows were pretty much on the same page for this one.

Each of them predicted at least 4 inches of snow to arrive today. Joe Witte on WJLA-TV (Channel 7) predicted 4 to 8 inches; Topper Shutt on WUSA-TV (Channel 9) predicted up to 8 inches, and Bob Ryan on WRC-TV (Channel 4) said 3 to 6 inches and “perhaps more” was expected.

The last time at least 4 inches of snow fell in Washington was Jan. 25, 2004.

Today’s storm — a low-pressure system over the Gulf states expected to combine with cold air moving from the north — sat just west of New Orleans yesterday afternoon.

“It’s going to continue to develop eastward and then ride along the Carolinas and out to sea by [tonight],” Mr. Guyer said. “There’s a fairly good chance of seeing some lingering snow and snow showers behind it.”

Mr. Guyer called the chances of snow falling during daylight hours “definite,” unlike last weekend, when forecasters called for several inches of snow to hit the Washington area and not a flake was seen.

Forecasters said the snow would start falling around 7 a.m. this morning, and there is a 70 percent chance for snow to fall tonight. Mr. Guyer said the snow could mix with sleet in areas from the District on south.

School officials said they most likely would wait until early morning to decide if schools should be closed because of the snow.

“We’re doing assessments of the situation,” said Leonie Campbell, spokeswoman for D.C. schools said last evening. “At about 4 a.m. there will be a meeting between senior staff and [Superintendent Clifford B.] Janey will make a decision on whether to open or close schools.”

Transportation crews began preparing for the storm early this morning. Bill Rice, spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said crews were to be deployed at 1 a.m. to prepare to treat the city’s roads.

“We’re going to be salting and having people deployed so that when the snow starts there will already be salt on the ground, and we’ll be ready to plow as the conditions warrant,” Mr. Rice said. “We want to make sure we have an appropriate amount [of workers] to cover through probably two shifts.”

Adrienne Cousler with the Maryland State Highway Administration said more than 2,500 workers and 2,200 pieces of equipment would be ready for work at 4 a.m. today, waiting to salt the roads when the first flakes begin to fall.

“At this point last weekend they were calling for 3 to 6 inches and we didn’t get anything hardly,” Miss Cousler said. “We come prepared no matter what.”

Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Joan Morris said crews would begin mobilizing at 1 a.m. today, and about 800 salt trucks and plows would be at their posts along major roads by 7 a.m.

“Right now, the snow is scheduled to begin during the peak of rush hour which is not ideal,” Miss Morris said yesterday afternoon. “However, we will have a window of time when we’ll be able to treat the roads before people return home in the afternoon.”

Miss Morris said VDOT will have plenty of resources available. The department has a budget of $24.5 million slotted for snow removal, and has spent only $10.5 million cleaning up roads so far this winter, which until today has been rather snow-free.

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