- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2010

UPDATED:

The Washington area felt the full impact Wednesday of the most recent winter storm, with blinding snow squalls and other blizzard conditions paralyzing commuters and forcing work crews off roads.

The 45-mph gusts and blowing snow were so intense that District of Columbia officials told work crews to pull to the side of roadways during whiteout conditions. Montgomery County, north of the city, took similar measures.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier said police, fire and ambulance crews are still making calls, but she urged motorists and pedestrians to stay home.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered all non-emergency vehicles off city streets.

“We’ve had no highway fatalities,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told CNN. “We would like to keep it that way, but we ned the public’s help.

RELATED STORY: Roof collapses at Smithsonian warehouse in Md.

Roughly 5 inches has fallen on the nation’s capital since Tuesday night, and an additional 7 inches is expected amid blizzard warnings that extend northeast to New York.

Washington will need 9 more inches to break the record of 54 inches, set in the late 1800s. Likewise for Philadelphia.

“It’s hard to find anything in the history books of these types of storms back to back,” National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Konarik said.

Flags snapped outside of Washington’s Union Station and fresh snow whipped across a desolate Capitol Hill from wind gusting at 25 to 45 mph. Subway trains arriving and departing from the station were running behind schedule.

Subway-train service again has been discontinued at above-ground stations, and buses are not running as slush piles up on many streets still covered from last weekend’s storm, which dropped 2 to 3 feet on the region.

The federal government has been closed since Friday, and essentially every school district is closed for the third straight day.

Amtrak has canceled numerous trains out of Washington, particularly along the Northeast Corridor. Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airprotsare closed until 7 a.m. Thursday. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall, the region’s third major airport, remains open, but most flights are canceled. Hundreds of flights elsewhere along the Eastern seaboard also have been canceled.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday scrapped its entire workweek.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said the chamber will not meet the rest of the week, and no votes are scheduled.

Mr. Hoyer, whose home lost electrical power in the snowstorm, defended the decision to close the federal government at the estimated taxpayer cost of $100 million in lost productivity per day.

“This isn’t a storm of 1 or 2 or 3 inches,” he said. “It is a hellacious challenge … for anybody challenged with trying to clear these roads.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he intends to cancel the Senate’s Wednesday session.

“It’s embarrassing that the world’s largest superpower closes from a few feet of snow,” said Alex Krause, 23, of Los Angeles, who was stranded in Washington and visiting the National Mall. “The Kremlin must be laughing.”

However, President Obama still intends to keep his 11:45 a.m. meeting at the White House with black leaders to discuss the economy and jobs.

The national impact of closing the federal government likely will be negligible because roughly 85 percent of federal employees work outside the Washington region.

More than 10 inches of new snow fell before dawn in parts of Maryland. The storm — fueled by another along the Atlantic — is heading north, and its full impact is expected to hit Philadelphia, then New York this afternoon.

Plows and salt spreaders fought heavy snow in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the flakes briefly turned to rain to make a slushy mix.

Jeff Salgado, 24, a doorman at the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Baltimore, said guests had resorted to walking.

“I haven’t seen a cab all day,” Mr. Salgado said as he shoveled the latest layer of snow from in front of the hotel.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Democrat, urged residents to stay home if possible.

“It’s going to be pretty horrendous out there,” he said. “The roads are pretty rough right now, although our city forces are out.”

Plows have been rolling around the clock for days in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The weekend snow at one point knocked roughly 25 percent of D.C. plows out of commission. However, city officials said the plows are now back in service.

On Tuesday, the storm hit the Midwest, where it canceled hundreds of flights and was blamed for three traffic deaths in Michigan.

The weather service predicts New York City will get 10 to 16 inches, and schools are closed for only the third time in six years.

Thousands remained without power from the last storm in parts of western Pennsylvania, Maryland and other areas. Utilities said deep snow was hindering some crews trying to fix damaged power lines even before Tuesday’s storm arrived.

Their task could grow even more difficult with new snowfall and winds gusting up to 50 mph.

In West Virginia, where 40 counties were under a winter storm warning, Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, urged people to make sure snow was cleared from roofs of public buildings to avoid a repeat of 1998, when roof collapses were blamed for at least three deaths.

Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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