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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 01/27/2011

Buzz: Horror commutes, New Metro boss

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post editors

Good morning. The snow has stopped falling in most areas -- and now we get to deal with  the aftermath. A quick roundup: Most schools around the area have canceled classes today. There's also a two-hour delayed arrival and unscheduled leave for federal workers. Metrorail operations should be normal, but there will be limited bus service.

Storm death. We're sorry to report there was at least one storm-related death Wednesday night: A person died after a tree fell on a truck on Military Road near Oregon Avenue in northwest D.C.

Useful numbers: We received dozens of reports of downed trees and blown transformers Wednesday night (thank you). At one point, more than 400,000 customers throughout the region were in the dark. We'll get you the latest updates on the power situation this morning -- in the meantime, here's a list of where you can call if you're still in the dark. Here's information on where to call for snow removal. And just in case you're curious: Here's a map of snowfall totals.

Today's forecast. Looks like we'll have a day to rest (and shovel) on Thursday. The Capital Weather Gang says it will be mostly sunny but breezy -- winds 10-15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph in the morning -- with temperatures in the low-to-mid-30's. Looks like there's about a 30 percent chance of snow flurries on Friday. 

Coming up:

Metro's new boss. Metro officials are expected to officially announce Thursday that Richard Sarles has been selected to be the system's permanent general manager. The full Metro board -- including newly appointed members -- will be sworn in and will gather today for their first meeting of 2011. Dr. Gridlock says the choice of Sarles, who has served as interim general manager following the departure of John B. Catoe Jr. last spring, offers the transit agency stability at a time when it tries to rebuild its image, improve safety, reliability and employee morale.

Safe to drink? We're hoping to get word on when officials at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission will lift a boil-water order that has been in effect since Monday for a wide swath of Prince George's County. The order to boil water before consuming follows Monday's rupture of a 54-inch water main in Capitol Heights. More than 400,000 WSSC customers have been affected. Final results of tests are expected today.

Today's headlines:

Why was the commute such a mess? There were doubters, but Wednesday's storm did pack a punch. The big question this morning: Why was Wednesday afternoon/evening's commute such a mess? Officials knew the storm was coming. Federal workers were told they could go home two hours early. Several school systems dismissed or canceled classes.  Yet some people found themselves sitting in traffic jams that lasted five hours or more. So what happened? Here's one explanation from The Post's Ashley Halsey III: Road crews in both states and the District prepared for snow as they normally do, pretreating streets with salt and, in some cases, a calcium chloride mix, intended to melt the initial snow or ice. But on Wednesday the worst of the storm was preceded by a heavy rain that washed away most of those chemical pre-treatments. Then, just as the mix of sleet and freezing rain started -- and before crews could intervene again -- the rush hour home began early.

Did you have a nightmare commute? Share your story and read about other horror stories including that of Denise Borders, who spent nearly 13 grueling hours on the George Washington Parkway-- "just sitting for hours. Literally. Sitting, not moving."

Grading Gray on D.C.'s response. In the meantime, in his first snow test, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray thinks he did just fine. The Twitterverse, however, disagrees.

WalMart and the Civil War. Preservationists and Civil War buffs cheered Wednesday's news that after years of battling, WalMart will not build a store on the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia's Orange County. Now The Post's Mike DeBonis reports that another Civil War link could hamper plans to build a store on Georgia Avenue, NW.  The site -- one of four in the District being eyed by WalMart officials -- essentially sits across the street from historic Fort Stevens.

Inauguration expenses. This is likely to raise eyebrows. Prince George's County officials spent $43,000 in government funds for the December inauguration of County Executive Rushern Baker and incoming county council members. (The Gazette)

In short: A pair of Georgetown University grads secured a $1 million deal at Sundance this week for their film "Another Earth" (Post); Montgomery school officials have been instructed by the Maryland State Board of Education to reconsider the applications of two groups that hope to launch charter schools in the county (Associated Press); homeowners have filed a new appeal hoping to delay slots from coming to Arundel Mills. (The Baltimore Sun)

Other items:

Snowball fight. A snowstorm in D.C. wouldn't be complete without a snowball fight. A tradition that began during last year's "Snowmageddon" "Snowpocalypse" -- was revived Wednesday night in Dupont Circle. And word was that Wednesday's snow was perfect for making snowballs. We've got a story, plus video of the fun.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading and be careful driving in this morning. Check back with us for more headlines and updates throughout the day and be sure to let us know if you spot blocked roads, downed trees or other hazards. Lots of ways to let us know: Map it or write about it, post a comment below, send us a tweet @postlocal, use hashtags #disastercommute or #dclightsout, or e-mail

By Lori Aratani  | January 27, 2011; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  DC, Loris AM Buzz, Maryland, Traffic and Transportation, Virginia, Weather  | Tags:  loris am buzz  
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Next: Prince George's water advisory lifted

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