Lost weekend for D.C. travelers
All signs point to a long dig-out phase for travelers in the D.C. area. Sunday travel will be difficult, whether by road, rail or air. Transportation agencies are looking past the weekend to see how quickly they can restore their services once commuters try to return to work.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's goal for his plow trucks is to have the city open for business on Monday. The District Department of Transportation asks residents to phone 311 to report downed trees, which have been a problem in neighborhoods throughout the Washington region. And as with other transportation agencies, DDOT is asking residents not to shovel snow into the streets. Use the areas around the trees, known as tree boxes, for as much of the snow as possible.
Metro has announced no plans past Saturday. The rail service will operate underground only to the regular closing time of 3 a.m. Sunday. Metrorail shut down at 11 p.m. Friday and stored many of its rail cars underground in hopes of having enough functioning cars for rush-hour service Monday. On Saturday, the trains are operating about every half-hour. Metrobus and MetroAccess services are suspended until further notice. The suburban bus services have not yet announced whether they can resume service Sunday.
The Maryland State Highway Administration advises that you should manage your travel expectations regarding the next few days. The cleanup and clearing will extend into Monday and Tuesday, the agency says.
On Saturday, I-95 has been a particular problem between the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) and the Capital Beltway (I-495). Abandoned or disabled vehicles are causing severe delays. Highway crews are continuing plowing operations, as well as responding to these emergencies.
Susan Hubbard, director of public information for the Prince George's County Department of Public Works, said more than 320 snow vehicles had been deployed at 1 p.m. Friday and have worked around the clock clearing county roads, reports staff writer Avis Thomas-Lester.
Hubbard said smaller county vehicles were being used to clear some residential roads, but the continuing snowfall made the effort almost fruitless. "As soon as they get the roads clear, they are covered up with snow again and they have to turn around and plow them again," she said.
Hubbard called on county residents to do their part by clearing sidewalks. She also reminded residents that it is illegal to block the sidewalk with a vehicle.
Crews continue to concentrate on interstates and primary roads first, and will begin to make inroads into subdivisions over the next several days. The Virginia Department of Transportation asks that when you shovel your driveway, refrain from clearing the last few feet at the street. Plows may push snow into back into the driveways.
It may be midweek before residential streets in Northern Virginia are plowed clear, and that timetable could be disrupted if there is another snowfall Tuesday, staff writer Ashley Halsey III reports.
Staff writer Ovetta Wiggins reports that flights are canceled until further notice at the D.C. region's three main airports.
Courtney Mickalonis, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles and Reagan National, said crews have been on duty since Friday working on the runways. But the task is daunting.
"Until the snow stops we won't be able to clear it," she said. "As the snow falls, there's no way we can keep up with it."
Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, said the airport and airlines have not determined when flight activity might resume. "Airlines have to reposition aircraft and crews before flights can resume," Dean said.
Mickalonis and Dean suggested that customers with canceled flights rebook their flights online. Dean said customers traveling in the coming days should check with their airlines about whether the flight has been rescheduled or needs to be rebooked.
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