- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Crews worked through yesterday and last night to remove snow and ice from a winter storm that at one point left more than 187,000 residents without electricity and made roads treacherous.

“We’ve got every piece of equipment we have out there,” said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The District Department of Transportation had 450 employees working in shifts to operate 150 snow- and ice-clearing vehicles.

“We will do our part in treating roadways,” agency Director Emeka Moneme said. “And motorists need to do their part in driving carefully or taking public transportation instead of driving.”

The storm, which arrived Tuesday and continued through yesterday morning, covered most of the region in ice and dropped as much as 5 inches of snow and sleet on the northern and western sections.

There were few reports of major traffic accidents. Officials attributed that to widespread school closings and the decision by the federal government and other offices to allow employees to stay home.

Among the worst accidents yesterday were a seven-vehicle wreck at about 11:15 a.m. that closed Interstate 695 and a flipped tractor-trailer on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Essentially every school in the region was closed yesterday. Montgomery, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the District were among the major school systems that made an early decision to close today as well.

Utility companies scrambled to restore power. By 11 p.m., the total number of outages in the region was down to about 81,000. The majority — 53,000 — were in Anne Arundel County.

Heavy outages were reported along the Route 50 corridor and along Route 3, roughly from Bowie to Glen Burnie, Md.

Most of the outages were due to the heavy ice, as thick as a half-inch in some areas, that toppled tree limbs and branches onto power lines.

Potomac Electric Power Co., which covers the District, Montgomery County and most of Prince George’s County, reported as many as 70,000 outages. The District had fewer than 30.

Pepco spokesman Robert Dobkin said calls started coming in as early as 4 a.m. and that the situation could have been worse.

“We were very fortunate this morning,” he said.

Baltimore Gas and Electric, which covers most of central Maryland, had the most number of outages, about 90,000.

At about 11 a.m., two BGE power lines to the Mill Branch Wastewater Pumping Station in Bowie broke and about 20,000 gallons of wastewater flowed into Mill Branch before power was restored and the overflow stopped about an hour later.

Dominion Power reported as many as 27,000 outages, most in the hard-hit Shenandoah Valley. About 5,000 lost power in Northern Virginia.

“We’re restoring the power as quickly as it is safely possible,” spokesman Karl Neddenien said.

However, winds gusting at 40 mph last night were expected to bring down more limbs and cause further outages.

Pepco and BGE said they were using contractors to help restore power. BGE also was asking for help from neighboring utilities.

A 15-year-old girl in Bluemont, Va., died yesterday afternoon after a strong gust of wind caused a tree to fall on her in the front yard of her home, Loudoun County officials said.

Anne Arundel County opened an emergency shelter at Annapolis High School, and Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson opened warming centers at seven fire stations for residents without power.

“We have told BGE we are dissatisfied with the lack of service the utility has provided to their Prince George’s County customers,” said Mr. Johnson, a Democrat.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission officials reported 28 waterline breaks Tuesday and five yesterday, likely because of changing weather temperatures. Repair crews are working in 12-hour shifts.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Ronald Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airports, said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“Our main problem was we got a lot of heavy ice pellets, which are a lot more difficult to clear than snow,” he said. “Fortunately, we treated runways before and during the event with ice melt, which mostly kept the ice from sticking to the runways.”

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was the only area airport to remain open through the storm. Dulles shut down at 5 a.m. yesterday and did not reopen until 12:30 p.m., when a single runway began to serve outbound passengers. A second runway opened at about 3:30 p.m.

Reagan Airport closed at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday night and did not resume flights until 10:40 a.m. yesterday, when the main runway reopened. The airport’s cross-runways remained closed yesterday while crews waited for air traffic to subside. Airport authorities expected all runways at Reagan to be open by this morning.

Airport officials did not anticipate re-freezing overnight on runaways that were cleared.

Metro reported no major weather-related problems on its subway trains, but morning buses used only snow emergency routes.

About 60 buses became temporarily bogged down in the icy slush, said Steven Taubenkibel, an agency spokesman. Most were quickly dislodged by drivers shoveling out stuck wheels. Tow trucks freed buses that could not be dug out by hand.

Buses were operating on a normal schedule on about 75 percent of regular routes by the evening rush hour.

Maryland canceled its commuter bus service for the day, and MARC trains were on a holiday schedule that cuts the number of trains in half, an agency spokeswoman said. Normal service is expected to resume this morning.

VRE also ran on a holiday schedule, which meant that only half of its normally scheduled trains were operating. OmniRide commuter buses serving the Northern Virginia suburbs also did not run.

Officials reminded residential and commercial property owners that public sidewalks in front of their properties have to be cleared within 24 hours of a snowstorm. Drivers were cautioned to watch out for pedestrians, who sometimes choose to walk along streets, not on icy sidewalks. Pedestrians are urged to wear boots or shoes resistant to sliding and brightly colored clothing.

• Aaron Groen contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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