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Posted at 3:59 AM ET, 01/27/2011

2-hour delay, unscheduled leave for federal workers

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Federal agencies in the Washington area are open Thursday with a two-hour delayed arrival. Workers may also take unscheduled leave or telework from home, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

"Emergency," or essential personnel should report as normal. Workers already scheduled to telework should begin work as scheduled.

Plan your snowy commute with The Post's Dr. Gridlock and track continuing changes in the weather forecast with The Capital Weather Gang.

Meanwhile, after one of the region's worst evening commutes in recent history, the man responsible for deciding when federal workers must report for work in inclement weather is defending his decision to send workers home early on Wednesday.

"We allowed two hour early departure -- and did so without a flake in sight," OPM Director John Berry said in an e-mail to The Federal Eye Wednesday evening. "As late as 4 p.m. I was worried with nothing happening if the exact opposite was going to occur, i,e,, a laughingstock story of over reaction."

"This is never easy," Berry said, "but I'd say we called it about right, in that most employees should have been underway around 2 to 3 p.m., far in advance of the mess and home safe while still light out."

Do you agree with Berry's decision? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama gets a Green Bay Packers welcome in Wisconsin. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina is leaving on Friday. Elizabeth Warren meets with Consumer Bureau critics.

Forged Lincoln documents!: Join a live web chat today at noon with Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, who will discuss the Lincoln pardon case.

CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE:
Budget deficit is expected to hit $1.5 trillion: The nonpartisan agency said the gross domestic product would grow 3.1% in 2011 but the jobless rate would remain high for the foreseeable future.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Republicans split over how to cut the defense budget: The discordant Republican voices on military spending has bred confusion on Capitol Hill.

HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT:
Color-coded terror warnings to be gone by April 27: One of the most notable changes to come: The public will no longer hear automated recordings at U.S. airports stating that the threat level is orange.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES:
Altered Lincoln pardon at National Archives to be taken out of circulation: The document, which the Archives says was changed by a Woodbridge history buff, will be kept in a locked vault at the agency's downtown Washington headquarters, officials said Wednesday.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 27, 2011; 3:59 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Eye Opener  
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Comments

I disagree with Berry's comment that most federal employees were en route home yesterday beteen 2 and 3 pm. I left at 4:30 pm and half of my coworkers were still at the office. We're busy and underbudgeted and any time you tell us we can leave 2 hours early, we'll be lucky to get one of those hours. Berry apparently lives in this old-fashioned work where we're clock punchers who leave the minute we an. That's not the culture of my hardworking office. And a lot of us took work home, too.

Posted by: lacoatrack | January 27, 2011 4:14 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for making the right decision.

Posted by: csockey | January 27, 2011 4:14 AM | Report abuse

Definitely NOT Leaving Early for Snow: Every Budget Analyst in town. We still left long after the sun went down; we still have FY12 submissions due to Congress in two weeks, after all, snow or no snow. ;)

Posted by: Eleiana | January 27, 2011 4:36 AM | Report abuse

It was the right decision. Drivers had some bad luck with rain turning to sleet so quickly, but those of us on Metro seemed to be getting home ok.

Posted by: kgover | January 27, 2011 4:49 AM | Report abuse

Look, they should have let people leave at noon. The weather forecast was fairly clear and what happened is that everyone was trying to get home right at the beginning of the event. And now, he wants federal workers back and there is going to be MORE SNOW and re-icing. Which will be a repeat of yesterday. They should have had a snow/telework day for today so they can reall yclear the roads. I am teleworking today as long as I have power which JUST came on about 10 minutes ago.

Posted by: jacquie1 | January 27, 2011 5:18 AM | Report abuse

Right call, even if for a change a few g'vment employees, had to stay and finish a project, as is often the case for private workers, who understand they their productivity is their job security.

Posted by: samscram | January 27, 2011 5:18 AM | Report abuse

the entire city of DC shuts down- but the Federal government gives only a 2 hour delay? It will take that long to dig my car out. Thanks John Berry! And thanks for making this decision in a timely manner, I mean, when I went to bed at midnight, there was still no news, but who really wants to know such trivial matters before going to bed anyway! I'm opting to telecommute, the drive home was bad enough, no thanks for venturing out tomorrow.

Posted by: dclady21 | January 27, 2011 5:19 AM | Report abuse

Insane. This OPM man does not live in the real world. I live in MoCo, we have a snow emergency in effect: Vehicles parked in snow emergency routes will be towed, and any on the road must have all-weather or snow tires or chains. I don't have soow tires or chains, my side street has not been plowed, I doubt the metro lot has been plowed, the roads refroze - he just watns feds and others to burn thru their levave so he can look prudent/fiscally responsible.

He also doesn't care that the city will again experience grid-lock as we attempt to get in - last night wasn't bad enough?

Posted by: MidcenturyModern | January 27, 2011 5:26 AM | Report abuse

OPM's Berry is a moron and Obama should continue with change and fire his sorry #$$. If 10 hour commutes home don't faze Berry, there is no hope for the rest of OPM.

Close the feds and let the city clean out the snow!!

Posted by: joy5 | January 27, 2011 5:47 AM | Report abuse

everything is frozen and without power, Marc is not operating and they say 2 hour delay. Come on now.

Posted by: paulnolan97 | January 27, 2011 5:49 AM | Report abuse

everything is frozen and without power, Marc is not operating and they say 2 hour delay. Come on now.

Posted by: paulnolan97 | January 27, 2011 5:49 AM | Report abuse

everything is frozen and without power, Marc is not operating and they say 2 hour delay. Come on now.

Posted by: paulnolan97 | January 27, 2011 5:49 AM | Report abuse

everything is frozen and without power, Marc is not operating and they say 2 hour delay. Come on now.

Posted by: paulnolan97 | January 27, 2011 5:49 AM | Report abuse

everything is frozen and without power, Marc is not operating and they say 2 hour delay. Come on now.

Posted by: paulnolan97 | January 27, 2011 5:49 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Berry made a tremendous mistake yesterday, as is evident from the five hour plus commute that most if not all of my staff faced last night. Sending staff home two hours early yesterday meant that my people left their desks somewhere between 4 and 4:30 pm. As late as 9:30 I was receiving reports that many were still stuck in traffic (as was I). Indeed, I turned around after four and a half hours and returned to my office, where many of us have spent the night. Those staff who decided to ignore OPM and just leave at 2:00pm all got home in a safe and timely manner. Mr. Berry should have sent staff home at 2:00pm, or at the least staggered an earlier dismissal based on commuting distance. Mr. Berry only compounded his mistake by declaring a late arrival policy for today. Staff who spent four to five and in some cases six hours trying to get home last night are all getting up now to return to the office. Those of us who had to sleep in our offices get to decide whether to take leave to try and get home to family or to just stay here. It seems to me that Mr. Berry made a bad situation worse yesterday, and has only compounded the ill effects of that decision with his late arrival call of today.

Posted by: DedicatedFed | January 27, 2011 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely the wrong call, Mr. Berry. Look, every radar as of yesterday morning called for a large amount of snow right at rush hour. You should have announced unscheduled leave/telework and a lot of this would have been avoided. At the very least, a noon dismissal would have helped. Most people don't get in at 6 or 7 am, so they didn't get to leave at 2 or 3. Get a clue.

Posted by: ukcatfan | January 27, 2011 6:06 AM | Report abuse

"2-hour delay, unscheduled leave for federal workers" Should read: federal employees.

Posted by: 1911a1 | January 27, 2011 6:39 AM | Report abuse

We were lucky enough to get power back around 3am, but much of my neighborhood is still out. I would like for Mr. Berry to explain to those folks who are still on the roads because getting out of DC was gridlocked last night, how they should telework from homes that have no power, which is the case for, conservatively, 30-40% of federal employees and contractors?

Posted by: vtavgjoe | January 27, 2011 7:04 AM | Report abuse

What part of the NWS's 10:30am statement about "rapidly deteriorating conditions Wednesday afternoon" did you/Berry not understand?

Posted by: 93camry | January 27, 2011 7:05 AM | Report abuse

I did not agree with OPM director John Berry. Yesterday, that should be unscheduled leave or 4 hour dismissal early if many public schools closed before snowstorm hit here last evening. Today federal government should be closed all day because of inclement weather and let city clean their roads easily.

Yesterday I decided to not go work after I carefully studied weather forecasts and called my boss. I explained her about that and she accepted that.

Posted by: Sword7 | January 27, 2011 7:10 AM | Report abuse

If buses are cancelled and rail lines are too, then OPM made the wrong decision!

Just typical of the Boehner-McConnell thinking in this town.

Bamas.

Posted by: bs2004 | January 27, 2011 7:42 AM | Report abuse

If buses are cancelled and rail lines are too, then OPM made the wrong decision!

Just typical of the Boehner-McConnell thinking in this town.

Bamas.
___________________________________________Not to get political, but it's an Obama appointed official that makes this call. if you're going to slam a party for this decision, at least show you have a brain and actually know who decides as to if Feds work or leave early.

Posted by: ukcatfan | January 27, 2011 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the overall opinion that Berry is a out of touch. I just drove from Chantilly to Arlington and it is still a complete disaster out there. Cars, trucks, buses, snow plows, etc are stuck everywhere. Many roads are down to one lane because of these immobilized vehicles. The roads still have considerable amounts of scattered ice on them in many areas a good 3 inches thick, and is like driving over a mine field. The housing areas are still a mess as well. Mr. Berry, you sir are one bizarre creature. Last year you lived through this very same ordeal but apparently have not learned a damn thing.

Posted by: trjuxal | January 27, 2011 7:59 AM | Report abuse

This is twice that John Berry's bone-headed decisions have contributed to horrendous commutes (remember his decision to open the federal government on the Friday of Blizzard Week last year?).

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 27, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Poor hard working bureaucrats, a little snow to upset your do-nothing day! Two hours late means 4 hours late (no leave taken) in the US government world. The lazy bureaucrats should show up on time or be forced to take leave.

Posted by: Drudge1 | January 27, 2011 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Agree it was a bad call. So is a 2 hour delay today. Our MD fed agency makes it's own call and we made similar bad decision. I think the bottom line is after freezing our pay they want to force us to take leave to save money. Some yesterday didn't even have that option because if they left early without liberal leave they were AWOL. Keeping traffic off the roads today would allow for a full cleanup.

Posted by: biketraveller22 | January 27, 2011 8:04 AM | Report abuse

The Feds made an even bigger mistake today, by not closing entirely. Did they not get the message that thousands of people had 6-13 hour commutes, power lines were down, cars abandoned, and roads still uncleared? What makes them think today will be any better?

Posted by: lgutter | January 27, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Here's some math for you, Mr. Berry. 9 AM + 8.5 hour day - two hour early release = 3:30 pm. Time to get to the car and on the road = 15 mins. If by "timing this right" you meant to say that you intended to put us on the road just as the storm was getting nastiest, yes. You did that quite well.

Here's some more math: 8 hours on the roads * $40/hour * 100,000 people = $32 million dollars in productivity lost last night, so that you could save yourself the potential embarrassment of newspapers accusing you of having overreacted.

Heckuva job.

Posted by: i11umina | January 27, 2011 8:22 AM | Report abuse

I think the decision was a right one. Nobody is going to be happy.

Posted by: quilter1 | January 27, 2011 8:32 AM | Report abuse

This kind of thing happens a lot when there is a bad snow in the DC area. Even when I get my driveway cleared, the street is not plowed and I'm not going anywhere until that happens. So the two hour rule is meaningless for lots of folks in the suburbs. My boss will not let us telecommute because he doesn't trust his employees. I have a secure broadband connection to the bureau's remote access point and I can't get paid for doing at home what I do in the office. So I have no choice but to use annual leave because the management in the government cannot face the reality of the situation.

Posted by: curranj | January 27, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I think the decision was a right one. It was a snow storm for heaven's sake. We all know what happens in the region when we have a storm. Nobody is going to be happy with whatever decision was made.

Posted by: quilter1 | January 27, 2011 8:34 AM | Report abuse

It was a mistake to only provide two hour early dismissal yesterday. The goal should have been to make sure workers, including those from companies who mirror the OPM status, were home before the storm hit. A two hour early dismissal doesn't guarantee a 2-3pm departure time. The better response would have been a firmer departure time of between Noon and 2pm to allow employees to get home safely before the storm hit, not still be commuting as it hit.

Compounding the mistake this morning by only providing a two hour delay is inexcusable. Watching local news this morning, the various agencies responsible for snow removal and road safety are encouraging people to stay home and allow them to clear the roads today. Why is there a disconnect between those responsible for clearing the snow and those setting the policy? Mr Berry should have followed their lead and encouraged employees to stay home, stay safe and let things clean up. One day of lost productivity is worth it if the snow is cleared faster, or the roads are made safer or power is restored to all those without it. Short-sighted decision.

Posted by: delphisans18 | January 27, 2011 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Drudge1 said: Poor hard working bureaucrats, a little snow to upset your do-nothing day! Two hours late means 4 hours late (no leave taken) in the US government world. The lazy bureaucrats should show up on time or be forced to take leave.

*****

Enough of your hate, Drudge1. Most likely you've been trying to get into the government for years but keep getting rejected. Wonder why...

Posted by: ReindeerDippin | January 27, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

OPM was definitely off. Our downtown, large, private sector law firm was worse. No mention at all yesterday that people might be able to leave work early. BUT, today, perhaps as a first, the firm is closed, while the federal government is officially open. So in the end the firm did good in adjusting for its missed earlier call. Same can't be said for OPM.

Posted by: xandersun | January 27, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

OPM was definitely off. Our downtown, large, private sector law firm was worse. No mention at all yesterday that people might be able to leave work early. BUT, today, perhaps as a first, the firm is closed, while the federal government is officially open. So in the end the firm did good in adjusting for its missed earlier call. Same can't be said for OPM.

Posted by: xandersun | January 27, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm a federal worker, happy to be able to work from home today. However, I, along with 422,000 other people have no power. And I have a two-hour battery life on my laptop. Well, I guess it's two hours less leave I have to take.

Posted by: VAChicopee | January 27, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

This commment is for ukcatfan:

Your remarks about party lines are out of whack. There is a clear message in Washington that Republicans b/c they now have the majority, are going use and abuse government employees for the sake of their own political agendas. Just b/c Berry was appointed by Obama it does not mean that he is not under tremendous pressure from the right wing. After all Berry would have to answer to a Congressional inquiry if asked.

Posted by: no_recess | January 27, 2011 9:10 AM | Report abuse

My office which is in a non-metro accessible area is without power. 2 hour delay? It is plain unsafe out there and there are probably still abandoned cars on the road. DC Gov't is off and they NEVER have off. Smart move in an election year.

Posted by: bethesda1 | January 27, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I am ASSUMING the federal government employs meteorologists whosse job is to predict these storms?? Poor job by the federal government since private companies and local governments base their leave on federal gov't. As someone who spent 5+ hours on a bus during the worst of the storm, not a happy camper...

Posted by: bellecody14 | January 27, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Amazing whiners and complainers. Just look at a nation of wimps and dolts we have become. This coddling of everyone is just what the Federal govt counts on. A little independence please. If you cant come to work take leave...and dont tell me you dont have any the avg worker has over 100Plus hrs of sick and annual leave not used. Imagine private industry releasing everyone 2 hrs early. Never because it costs money...but every govt worker is expendable...we'll thats 90% true.

Posted by: espnfan | January 27, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

He still thinks he made the right decision? Pathetic. Everybody knew the storm was going to hit hard at 4. The goal should have been to have the roads empty at that time, not to start the drive home.
I also question this mornings decision. In my 23 mile commute, I encountered 137 abandonded vehicles, people walking on major roadways, trees down in travel lanes, and about half the traffic lights out. Additionally, my street still hasn't seen a plow (but I passed at least 12 parked plows). For many of us, teleworking isnt an option for security reasons.

Posted by: justanotherguy | January 27, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Amazing whiners and complainers. Just look at a nation of wimps and dolts we have become. This coddling of everyone is just what the Federal govt counts on. A little independence please. If you cant come to work take leave...and dont tell me you dont have any the avg worker has over 100Plus hrs of sick and annual leave not used. Imagine private industry releasing everyone 2 hrs early. Never because it costs money...but every govt worker is expendable...we'll thats 90% true.

Posted by: espnfan | January 27, 2011 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Obama appointed John Berry back in March 2009. Before that, Berry ran the DC Zoo. This is from the WPO March 2009:

"Obama Appoints John Berry to OPM
President Obama has finally made official an appointment first reported by the Post's Al Kamen about seven weeks ago.

Today, the president nominated John Berry to head the Office of Personnel Management.

“From turning around the National Zoo to fostering a more productive work environment at the Department of the Interior, John Berry has a tremendous record of effective management in key public service roles," Obama said. "I’m confident that he will provide that same leadership at OPM to help ensure that government works for the American people the way it should.”

Federal labor leaders praised the nomination.

“John Berry is the perfect choice for the position of OPM Director. He has the right experience in both policy and in politics. We look forward to working with him as he takes on the task of revitalizing the civil service – which been attacked for eight years by the Bush Administration.” said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Beth Moten, the union's legislative director, cited Berry's work with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer."

Posted by: NAuchi | January 27, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Since the last Snow Storm of 2010 the Fed policy is to limit the time Fed employees get free from the gov. example is 2 hour late to work, take leave or telework. This is a political decision because the public cried so much for the fed workers getting a week off because of snowmagedon 2010. It's always going to be a hard call either way. Now when it comes to telework most fed offices don't allow it at all or very limited amounts so that really does not help ove 90% of gov employees. Telework needs to be mandated and enforced in gov. The old addage that if I don't see you then you are not working don't hold in today world.

Posted by: Concerned5 | January 27, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

He still thinks he made the right decision? Pathetic. Everybody knew the storm was going to hit hard at 4. The goal should have been to have the roads empty at that time, not to start the drive home.
I also question this mornings decision. In my 23 mile commute, I encountered 137 abandonded vehicles, people walking on major roadways, trees down in travel lanes, and about half the traffic lights out. Additionally, my street still hasn't seen a plow (but I passed at least 12 parked plows). For many of us, teleworking isnt an option for security reasons.

Posted by: justanotherguy | January 27, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

This is an ill-conceived attempt to over-compensate for last winter's excessive week-long closings, which is probably an especially sensitive subject for the the new, tea-party-sensitive Obama Administration. However, this isn't the "flinty Chicago toughness" President Obama spoke of (I would know, unlike him, I'm actually from Chicago). This is just unmitigated idiocy.

News stations continue to report hundreds of abandoned cars still littering the streets. At least one direction of GW parkway is impassable. Metro buses continue to run snow-emergency only routes until 10 a.m. (meaning bus service won't resume until AFTER the 2 hr. delay). And this is on the main traffic arteries.

There's no culpability for last night's storm. The best snow removal crews on the planet couldn't have done any better. And I've no doubt they're doing their best to make the roads passable. That, however, takes time.

There is culpability for the failure to recognize the magnitude of the storm and the fact that the area is still trying to open basic means of transportation. The 2 hr. delay is just a poorly thought-through political decision. C'est la vie. It IS Washington, DC, after all.

Posted by: dsk36 | January 27, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

@espnfan

Since when is a 9-hour commute a legitimate imposition on employees?

Safety comes first, and the Feds proved they have no concern for the safety of their workers or the citizens of this area.

Perhaps if you had your way, Federal workers would just work for free. If someone is forced to endure a 9 hour commute home due to the negligence of their managers, the managers should at least have the moral courage and basic decency to admit their mistake.

The whiners are those that insist people take horrendous inconveniences and not express frustration, or use up ridiculous amounts of their personal time for their employer free of charge.

Nothing's free, neither time nor convenience nor effort. To think otherwise reeks of communism or a fascist, slave/master mindset.

"Oh you who cannot commiserate with the suffering of others: You yourself are unfit to be called human."
~Saadi

Posted by: celt1 | January 27, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

he made the right call yesterday but not today. i left herndon at 2:45 and made it through the sleet to centreville at 3:30. i should have left at 2:30 as was authorized. those with longer commutes should have left earlier and planned on using comp time, flextime, annual leave, etc. but i'm very surprised that the federal government was not closed today given current road conditions included stranded vehicles and the amount of snow still to be removed from driveways, side roads, etc.

Posted by: Nobama16 | January 27, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

You fed workers do nothing but cry whine and complain.

Posted by: taonima2000 | January 27, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

@taonima2000

"You fed workers do nothing but cry whine and complain."

What do you call what you just did?

Posted by: celt1 | January 27, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm from NYC and have lived in MD for over 10 years. People in this area do NOT know how to drive in bad weather - and, the infrastructure here (roads, bridges, etc.) absolutely cannot handle the amount of traffic. I take the MARC and it is not running today - and I can't get out of my neighborhood, there's a foot of snow on my doorstep - that's life. Don't be so quick to blame OPM or the local/fed gov't , take responsibility for yourselves and your commute. You make choices where you live and where you work, if you're that frustrated - MOVE.

Posted by: PMSJL1 | January 27, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I'm from NYC and have lived in MD for over 10 years. People in this area do NOT know how to drive in bad weather - and, the infrastructure here (roads, bridges, etc.) absolutely cannot handle the amount of traffic. I take the MARC and it is not running today - and I can't get out of my neighborhood, there's a foot of snow on my doorstep - that's life. Don't be so quick to blame OPM or the local/fed gov't , take responsibility for yourselves and your commute. You make choices where you live and where you work, if you're that frustrated - MOVE or CHANGE JOBS.

Posted by: PMSJL1 | January 27, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

@PMSJL1

That's just it though--I'm fine with taking responsibility for myself.

What people are angry about is that the OPM isn't taking responsibility for their complete and incurable idiocy.

If I make a mistake, I will (and should) take responsibility for it. If it is a big mistake and I didn't do my job well, or at all, then I should be fired.

The OPM needs to live by the same criteria as their employees.

Posted by: celt1 | January 27, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

--You fed workers do nothing but cry whine and complain.---

Ahhh....so apparently YOU were NOT one of the folks sitting in traffic for 10-12 hours last night peeing on the side of the road, no food, etc. Got it.

Posted by: trjuxal | January 27, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

@PMSJL1

That's just it though--I'm fine with taking responsibility for myself.

What people are angry about is that the OPM isn't taking responsibility for their complete and incurable idiocy.

If I make a mistake, I will (and should) take responsibility for it. If it is a big mistake and I didn't do my job well, or at all, then I should be fired.

The OPM needs to live by the same criteria as their employees.

Posted by: celt1 | January 27, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

espnfan and taonima2000:

what is your problem? I've pulled countless weekends and all-nighters in my ten years as a federal attorney w/o complaint and w/o overtime pay, frequently pulling work hauls on par w/ my colleagues at private law firms, WHO GET PAID TRIPLE WHAT I GET PAID. I've also lived in the DC area for 34 of my 36 years and been living in DC proper since age 23 (do the math) and I can't remember a commute that was as bad as last night. it took me almost four hours -- not including the two-hour break that I took when I got off the bus and worked out at a gym that was en route -- and all I was doing was going from Cap Hill to Glover Park. at the end of the day it is supposed to come down to practical decision-making and the safety of everyone, something that is increasingly and unfortunately rare these days due to the rantings of teabaggers such as yourselves and the officials who kowtow to them.

so I'm curious what you guys do that makes you so high and mighty and better than the rest of us? I could offhandedly speculate but then I would just be insulting.

in any event, go f yourselves.

Posted by: mialvarez | January 27, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely a political decision by OPM that isn't based on the situations in surrounding areas. Same reason they opened that Friday after the dual blizzards, and it was a mess.

Posted by: ianswank | January 27, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

As the region's major employer (and I don't care if they are government or commercial, they have X number of employees and cars to unleash upon the road system) this was a very poor decision. The federal government should have closed at noon.

The National Weather Service almost NEVER uses the word "dangerous" in their forecasts and advisories around here. They did so yesterday and in plenty of time. Two hours was too little, too late. What was the National Weather Service supposed to do, use bright red or flashing letters around the word "dangerous" or add a little cartoon character to make the point?

The end result of putting hundreds of thousands of ordinary people on the road for five, ten, 13 hours, in stopped or slow-moving cars, many no doubt running low on gas or with some mechanical defect, in subfreezing temperatures, was completely predictable (I know, because the National Weather Service predicted it).

Those hundreds of thousands of stranded, at-risk people were not just the government workers. They were people from every walk of life including kids, seniors, disabled people, private sector workers, and I'm sure a few pregnant women, all caught up in the overly late dismissal of the federal workforce that swamped the roads and thus made it impossible for road crews to re-treat or keep up.

Next time, noon. (Or maybe some federal middle managers could be empowered to make this decision on their own for their offices and let people go when their judment dictates.)

Posted by: fairfaxvoter1 | January 27, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

With a very clear forecast from CWG, John Berry had more than enough reason to release federal workers at noon, which could have prevented the scores of accidents that occurred last night. He put his own reputation ahead of the safety of thousands of federal employees.

Posted by: Anonymous123451 | January 27, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

If one had the ability to take leave yesterday and leave early and did not, then there is little sympathy for that person. After 10 years in government (4 different agencies) I have never heard of a manager not letting a person take leave early to get home safely. Every year, people who can take leave do not and blame others even though the conditions are the same every year: DC area has bad power lines, plowing and lots of congestion that in a snowstorm do not do well. Knowing that is the case, and if one can take leave, why do one stay at work?

Posted by: shackleton | January 27, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

no_recess -
Since when does Obama and the Democrat's care about a Congressional inquiry? And I'm quite sure that since Members let their staff leave early, the "evil Republicans" would not have had a Congressional inquiry over letting people telework or take unscheduled leave. I stand by my initial comment that blaming Hill Republicans for this decision was a stupid one. You might as well blame President Bush, too, while you're at it.

Posted by: ukcatfan | January 27, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

The problem wasn't just the amount of snow, it was when the snow hit and the type of snow.
I have been in many a snowstorm not only here, but in the northeast and midwest. And every time a snowstorm has hit during the afternoon/evening commute, it has been a mess. The only solution: get all, yes, all commuters on their way home no later than two hours before the snowstorm is predicted to hit any part of the primary commuting area.
Second: you take a powdery snow like the type you tend to get when it is less than 20 degees, and it is easy to push around. But you take a wet snow that is very common when the temps are around 32 degrees, and it is heavy, hard to push, compacts into ice, and brings down trees and power lines: problems, problems problems. Any meteorologist could have told any official who would have listened yesterday, that all the conditions were ripe for a wet snow event.
The only saving grace was that there was minimal wind/blowing snow.
Oh, and regarding this morning, it was obvious when I left my house at at 6am, (I was very lucky that power did not go out in my neighborhood until 7am, my development's streets were cleared, and I only had a 2 mile trip to the Metro). It was eerie: lights out, many snow covered Roads, such as chain Bridge Road, and very, very tired road cleaning and utilitycrews. Obviously, some officials did not talk to the road crews or the electric utilities either.

Posted by: EricfromOakton | January 27, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Think another problem is that this area is chock full of people who think that their job is the most important in the world and that the government or their company will come crashing down if they leave early one day. Also, many government workers hoard their leave like a squirrel with nuts and wait for OPM to grant them free leave.

Posted by: Axel2 | January 27, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Whining? Seriously, this was not Lake Tahoe powder snow and none of us own snow tires. its the mid-atlantic for peets sake! we never needed snow driving ability or whatever. And there is no way to drive properly in ice. But if you can, please tell us your secret. My office is in the suburbs, like many offices now, since the Fed is moving out of metro accessible areas, has no power. If we want to move to teleworking, serious initiatives need to start happening starting with mandatory training for supervisors. Many do not allow it which means the only alternative to annual leave today was to risk one's safety or the safety of others. Is this even legal?

Posted by: bethesda1 | January 27, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

The OPM Team that makes these Major Decisions needs to be held accountable. The post needs to do a full story on who they are and or follow them for a day. It took me 7 hours (430-1030) to get from DC to Sterling...and I was the lucky one, I took on two stranded passengers, cleared 7 stuck cars, shoveled out 2 cars. The people with bald tires or no shovel in their trunk need a ticket. Virginia's no chains and no studded tires laws need to be overturned, we're in for many more bad 1930's type winters over the next decade. It's unacceptable that OPM clogged the roads early at the exact time they needed plowed and snowfall was the greatest. Thundersnow is a thunderstorm of precipitation. That's Meteorology 101, and the OPM team probably didn't take that class in a city with NWS professionals!? Yet they expect folks back to work by ~9am the next day after a nightmare commute for everyone including the president. I lived in Chicago and understand Obama's initial comments to DC traffic in snow. But the scared little people who have knee jerked into a 'now we never get too generous with dismissals' status now that Obama made one little comment - have never been to Chicago. Some agencies have countered the 3 telework days per pay period as excessive down to two only allowed. Chicago is a huge commerce base and tax base and this allows it far more equipment (Bigger better, all night crews), salt everywhere, cars rusted out in three years - it's a different world. It's a flat world - very flat, few overpasses/bridges. Chicago is a semi-circle not a beltway over 3 states a river and 5 to 6 counties... OPM needs to wake up - run some GIS data and see mapped out where their workers live (ie many more outside beltway than they act like.) The state transportation departments and their contractors are basically committing fraud, interfering with government officials in the performance of their duties, (ie going to airports/official travel), and interfering with interstate commerce - all felonies. So there is much much more to this story and Real PROFESSIONAL reporters would get up on this issue and nail a full scale professional investigative report to the Front Page.

Posted by: moscowpi | January 27, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Dumb Dumb Dumb… they let everyone out right into the heart of the storm. As early as 1pm you could see what was coming on radar… Move the early release back or tell people to “shelter in place” — they are at least partly or entirely responsible for sending tons of people out into the heart of that storm… stranding federal workers all over our highways… then to top it off… what do they do… they only have a 2hr delay this morning… when probably half their workforce is still sleeping on highways or just made it home… I believe this was a money decision… afraid to take the heat for the cost of closing the government… Money or Safety here — you decide?

Posted by: wvmouser2 | January 27, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Every since President Obama made that comment about metropolitan area how we close every time it snows, every one has been have been trying to make a statement to and brown noising him on this. However, this area has never been equipped to handle bad weather like yesterday and we are not use to this type of weather all the time. Women with children walking in the middle of the street with babies in their arms, people driving for hours to get home to the point some had to sleep in their cars in the cold or walk for miles in the cold home. Buses not running on certain routes and people had to walk from the metro home with kids. He rides in a motor cadre; his kids are driven to school. In some areas where kids’ ride the busses are hills and dangerous turn buses can turn over and kids can be killed. People walking in the snow long distances home it is too much for our area to handle in big snow storms. And what is more important to prove a point or the people and their lives. But we love Americans...Please.

Posted by: ForlesiaCook | January 27, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I may be wrong, but my guess is that Mr. Berry probably lives in DC and either commutes by subway, bus, walks, or has an OPM-supplied van or car pick him up, given his position.

Regardless, he seems out of touch with what's going on regionally, even after speaking with his consultants before deciding -- I cannot believe that he is one who drives in from the suburbs.

I now make my own commuting decisions regardless of what OPM dictates. I gladly use my leave today. Heck, the first 3 hours of my day were spent clearing heavy snow. A 2-hr delay is meaningless to me on a day like this.

Posted by: 93camry | January 27, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Most federal contractors have an "always open" policy with liberal leave and/or telework at the individual employee's discretion.

Yesterday, most people in my office were gone by 3:00 taking home their computers so they could finish the day from home.

Today, 80% of the office is working from home. They made that decision on their own and management supports that decision so long at the work is getting done.

The days of the Government closing and their employees getting paid for the day are gone. That said, the Government managers need to be more open to telecommuting so that people don't take unnecessary risks on the road.

Posted by: mo_in_va1 | January 27, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Most federal contractors have an "always open" policy with liberal leave and/or telework at the individual employee's discretion.

Yesterday, most people in my office were gone by 3:00 taking home their computers so they could finish the day from home.

Today, 80% of the office is working from home. They made that decision on their own and management supports that decision so long at the work is getting done.

The days of the Government closing and their employees getting paid for the day are gone. That said, the Government managers need to be more open to telecommuting so that people don't take unnecessary risks on the road.

Posted by: mo_in_va1 | January 27, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I feel for you guys in the federal service, I really do. But, most employers are not responsible for accomodating their employees ability to get to and from work.

Posted by: SonniP | January 27, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I do not think the head of OPM was wrong in his decision to let Federal employees leave 2 hours early because not everyone comes in and gets off at the same time. I believe employees need to make decisions based on their personal commute. The issue I encountered last night is the road crews in Maryland and Virginia did not properly plan on how to keep the roads clear of ice and heavy snow. Let's put the blame on the officials who closed Suitland Parkway, PA Avenue, 395S near the Pentagon, 495, and so on and on where traffic was crazy due to road conditions not the leader of OPM.

Posted by: jvd1 | January 27, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Blame the commuter that would not let cars in or blocked intersection. Blame the road crews that did not prepare properly for the weather. Just don't blame OPM because everyone who has traveled in this area during bad weather knows when they should leave work even if it means taking an extra hour or two of leave.

Posted by: jvd1 | January 27, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

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