- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2012

The D.C. area remained largely shuttered for a second day in anticipation of what weather officials call an unprecedented storm system barreling along the entire East Coast.

Schools remained dark, Metro service stayed suspended, and federal and local governments were closed Tuesday as the brunt of Hurricane Sandy punished the Mid-Atlantic region with “low-grade hurricane and non-tropical storm force winds,” which could stay through the weekend.

“We really will not see a calm day the rest of the week,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Schoor.

“This is not like one line of thunderstorms,” he added. “This is long-lived, hour upon hour.”

Hurricane Sandy made landfall Monday night and is predicted to dump close to a foot of rain in the Mid-Atlantic region and heavy snow in the mountains of the West Virginia panhandle by Tuesday night.

Along the New Jersey coast and in New York City, high water flooded streets and homes ahead of the storm’s peak.

Sandy followed a path meteorologists predicted, reaching the southern New Jersey coast and heading north, leaving a trail of high winds and harsh rain in its wake.

Rather than losing strength as it hits the beaches, Mr. Schoor explained, the system was predicted to undergo “an unprecedented transition.”

“Because it’s so late in the year, the cold air coming in from behind, it’s going to turn into more of what a nor’easter would be,” Mr. Schoor said, referring to wintry and brutal East Coast storms caused by cold air blowing from the Atlantic Ocean. “Typically this happens this time of year, you start to get these systems, there’s just not rain associated with it.”

Residents should start to see a break in the weather on Wednesday, Mr. Schoor said.

“The sun will start to peek through … but it will still be mostly cloudy,” he said, adding that because the storm covers “such a huge area of real estate, it could still be breezy, even if it’s several hundred miles away.”

A break in the weather should help with the cleanup, but officials warned it could be days before power is restored to the thousands of residents left in the dark.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said that Pepco and BGE — the state’s two largest utilities — have brought in extra crews to help assess damage and restore power after the storm, but “those crews can’t go up in those bucket trucks in 60-mile-an-hour winds, so this is going to be a long haul.

“The days ahead are going to be very difficult,” he said.

Virginia’s state executive offices were closed Monday, and Gov. Bob McDonnell warned residents Monday afternoon that the worst was still to come from Hurricane Sandy — especially in Northern Virginia, where the storm’s effects are supposed to grow stronger by Tuesday morning.

He warned that the end of the storm would only be the beginning of the cleanup.

“After the storm passes and skies clear, the work will not be over. Far from it,” Mr. McDonnell said. “Virginians in every region are going to be recovering from significant damage. Virginians are going to need help.”

Hoping to safely ride out the storm, federal workers learned at about 4 p.m. Monday that their offices were closed on Tuesday, along with the D.C. government and Maryland state government.

Early voting in the District and Maryland was also canceled for a second day.

Metro trains and buses were suspended through Tuesday morning, a spokesman said. Service would only be restored after as assessment of damage.

Amtrak’s Northeast rail service was halted for a second day.

All airlines at Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport suspended service on Monday until further notice, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport warned travelers to expect widespread flight cancellations.

The threat of standing water and downed power lines prompted the second day off for schools in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, as well as schools in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and in the District.

The combination of high winds and saturated ground have officials worried, Mr. Schoor said, because the conditions are right for falling trees.

A half-dozen emergency shelters in Virginia and Maryland were opened on Monday in preparation for overnight damage caused by the high winds and heavy rain.

“Unfortunately, there are so many trees next to power lines,” Mr. Schoor said, and if they fall, they “can start to knock out power. This could happen here and across New England.”

David Sherfinski, David Hill, Andrea Noble and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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