- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2010

UPDATED:

Washington-area residents on Tuesday wrestled on their snow boots again and kept their shovels near the front door in preparation for another winter storm.

The storm that has already dropped several inches of snow on the Midwest was expected to reach the Mid-Atlantic by late afternoon and collide with another sweeping up the coast to dump at least 10 more inches on the region.

The National Weather Service has issued a storm warming for the Mid-Atlantic that lasts through 7 p.m. Wednesday. Temperature are expected to drop tonight into the low 20s and wind gusts could hit 25 mph.

The powerful winter storm — which will extend into New York and New England — will arrive after a weekend storm that dropped 2 to 3 feet across Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. New York City announced students would have a rare snow day Wednesday, only the third in six years.

The federal government and most Washington-area school districts have been closed since Monday, and the new storm is expected to extend the snow holiday.

The storm also arrives just as municipal crews finish clearing secondary roads and side streets and buses and trains start running on time.

A District spokeswoman said city snow plows have taken such a beating during the cleanup that a quarter of them at one point needed maintenance or were out of commission. She also said the District has had to borrow road salt from Baltimore.

On Tuesday morning, Washington Metro Area Transit Authority trains finally reached above-ground stops. The agency also said more than 300 buses were operating as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Amtrak trains were running on time from Union Station — at the base of Capitol Hill and where cabbies are charging arriving passengers as much $100 for the short ride downtown.

Manuel Bernardo, 30, of Bethesda, Md., was on his way to Barcelona, Spain. He bought a ticket to New York and was hoping to make it there in time to catch his flight to Madrid.

“Until this morning, I was happy as pie, because I love snow,” he said.

But train and airplane passengers are bracing for another round of delays and cancellations.

The Washington area’s three major airports — Ronald Reagan Washington National, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall and Washington Dulles International — were all reopened by mid-morning Monday but warned passengers about more delays and cancellations.

Hundreds of flights have already been canceled at Chicago’s airports as the storm moved across Illinois, where as much as a foot of snow is forecasted.

The storm is expect to hit the Mid-Atlantic at about 3 p.m., after closing schools and creating treacherous driving conditions from Minneapolis and Chicago to Louisville, Ky.

Jerry Bennett, manager of the Strosniders hardware store in Silver Spring, Md., said he sold 500 snow shovels in two hours Friday. Since then, customers have been stalking shipments.

“Every third question is, ‘Do you have shovels?’” Mr. Bennett said. “Every three hours, we can answer ‘yes,’ and then they’re gone.”

Some spots, including parts of Maryland, had nearly 3 feet of snow from the earlier storm. One scientist said if all that fell on the East Coast were melted, it would fill 12 million Olympic swimming pools or 30,000 Empire State buildings. Philadelphia and Washington each need about nine more inches to give the cities their snowiest winters since 1884, the first year records were kept.

Power still remains out for tens of thousands of homes and businesses, and utilities said deep snow was hindering some crews trying to fix damaged power lines before the next storm hits.

A new wave of cold residents was checking into the Hilton in Silver Spring, including Bill and Ann Hilliard and their two elderly cats. Temperatures in their powerless Montgomery County home had dropped into the 40s and with another foot of snow forecast, they didn’t want to stay.

Mrs. Hilliard recently had part of her leg amputated and their neighbors helped them out of the neighborhood.

“There was no way to get her out otherwise,” he said.

Potomac Electric Power Company, which serves the District and suburban Maryland, reported Tuesday afternoon that 10,419 customers were still without power. The hardest hit region was Montgomery County, on the north side of the District. Some neighborhoods got 3 feet of snow, and county officials canceled classes for the remainder of the week as the new storm approached.

Another major concern is roofs collapsing under the accumulating snow.

Don Masoero, the District’s chief building inspector, told WTOP Radio the weekend storm has most roofs already supporting their maximum of roughly 25 pounds per square foot.

He recommended that homeowner not try to clear the snow and instead look for cracks in ceilings and listen for “groaning, popping or scratching” noises that indicate a roof is stressed.

“Sound is a very good indicator,” he said.

A 60-year-old man from Upper Marlboro, Md., was among the first reported injured trying to clear snow from his garage roof. He was thrown Tuesday from his ladder when the roof collapsed and sustained potentially serious injuries, authorities said. In 1998, such cave-ins were blamed for the deaths of at least three West Virginia residents.

Though roughly 230,000 federal workers could stay home, the Obama administration and Congressional leaders were busy.

In the morning, President Obama signed an executive order to aggressively address the problem of childhood obesity, then met with Republicans and fellow Democrats from Capitol Hill to discuss the economy and jobs.

The president said jokingly that the meeting went so well that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, had gone out to play in the snow.

“I understand that McConnell and Reid are out doing snow angels on the South Lawn together,” he said during a rare, unannounced stop in the White House briefing room.

The White House also moved a Black History Month concert featuring Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson and Natalie Cole up a day to try to beat the storm.

Still, the House scrapped its entire work week.

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

Mr. Hoyer, who lost 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 one or two or three inches,” he said. “It is a hellacious challenge … for anybody challenged with trying to clear these roads.”

Mr. Hoyer said he cancelled the votes because lawmakers were having difficulty booking flights to Washington.

“It’s clear members are not able to get here,” he said.

The House already has a scheduled recess next week, giving them two weeks out of town. They will return to work on Feb. 22 — a day earlier than they had originally planned.

Mr. Reid said he wants to cancel Wednesday’s session of the Senate.

Greg Ten Eyck, a spokesman for Safeway Inc., said road conditions are making it hard for many stores to restock following the “epic” crowds before last week’s storm.

A Safeway grocery store in the Dupont Circle area of Washington had milk and some bread Tuesday, but many other items were picked over from the last storm. There was no shredded cheese, and people who wanted Diet Coke or Brussels sprouts were out of luck.

David Fiore, 49, a federal employee off for the second day, left with two bags of groceries. He had gone to four stores looking for milk the night before, but they were either out of it or too crowded. By Tuesday morning, Safeway had restocked, so he left with a gallon of milk, more than he usually buys.

“It’s that sort of hoarding instinct,” he said.

Still, the storm brought out the best in some: In Alexandria, Va., when word got out that a family living at the bottom of a hill on an unplowed street needed to get their teenage daughter whose cancer is in remission out to an important doctor’s appointment, neighbors quickly converged.

The entire street was shoveled before many neighbors even had shoveled their own driveways. Up the street, children tired of playing outside in the snow created craft items and had an impromptu sale to benefit victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

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

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