Man loses finger in snowblower
The cleanup from Snowpocalypse II is just beginning, and already we've seen a number of injuries. The latest is a Prince George's man who lost a finger in a snowblower. A woman in Prince George's had to be rescued after her awning collapsed on her. The National Weather Service's blizzard warning has officially expired, though it's still snowing -- though without much conviction -- in some areas, particularly north of the District. Dealing with the aftermath of the record-setting storm will not be easy. The federal government will close for the fourth straight day, an unprecedented event. Metro officials will limit service to underground Thursday and is likely to limit or suspend bus and Metro Access service. Montgomery County's Ride On bus system will not operate on Thursday. And in Frederick County, the Maryland State Police said late Wednesday night that "a lot" of motorists were stranded on roads around the county. Asked just where, a trooper responded, "everywhere."
11:31 p.m.: Limited DC Circulator Service to resume Thursday
The Circulator bus plans to resume restricted service at 10 a.m. Thursday, the D.C. Department of Transportation says.
Circulator Service will be available on the Union Station-Georgetown and Woodley Park-Adams Morgan-McPherson Square Metro routes.
DDOT expects to have a limited number of buses and drivers available at the beginning of service and customers should expect longer waits in between buses. More buses, and possibly additional routes, will be added throughout the day, assuming that conditions improve steadily.
The city transportation department says a detour is still in effect on the Georgetown-Union Station route: buses are not operating on Wisconsin Avenue north of M Street. Georgetown is being served westbound on lower K Street and eastbound on M Street.
The Circulator may hae to suspend service early on Thursday evening if the roadways freeze, DDOT said.
11:20 p.m.: Roof of U.S. government building collapses in Landover area
The roof of a U.S. Mint building in the Landover area partially collapsed just after 10 p.m. Mark Brady, a Prince George's County fire department spokesman, said the building is in the 3200 block of Pennsy Drive. No injuries were reported.
UPDATE, 11:10 p.m.: All lanes have been re-opened.
Earlier: Tractor-Trailer jackknifes on Beltway
A tractor-trailer jackknifed on the outer loop of the Beltway near Route 210 in Prince George's County about 8:45 p.m. No injuries were reported, but several lanes were shut down as troopers tried to clear the semi, Maryland State police said.
- Federal government closed for fourth day
- Snow baby, baby
- Woman injured after awning collapses
- Metro limited to underground service Thursday
- Snowball lands woman in hot water
- Some forecasters say more snow Monday
- D.C. schools close for the week
- 400 battle at Dupont snowball fight
- "Snowverkill" is a record breaker
- Parking war breaks out in Bethesda
- Emergency numbers
7:40 p.m. Man loses finger in snowblower accident
A man in his 60s lost a finger Wednesday evening in a snowblower accident in Prince George’s County, a county fire and emergency medical services spokesman said.
The man’s finger became caught in the blades of the blower around 6 p.m. in the 6500 block of Kenilworth Avenue in the Riverdale Park area, said Mark E. Brady, the fire department spokesman.
Brady said the man’s hand was extricated, but one of his fingers had been cut off by the blower. He was taken to a medical facility specializing in hand injuries. It was not clear whether an effort would be made to reattach the finger.
-- Martin Weil
7:24 p.m. Getting around will not be easy
There will be virtually no above ground transportation service of any kind on Thursday. There will be no MARC commuter train service on any line on Thursday. There will be no MTA Commuter Bus service on Thursday. VRE will not operate on Thursday. Alexandria's DASH bus service will not operate Thursday.
Agencies plan to make decisions about Friday service on Thursday evening.
In addition, many courts in Maryland, including those in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, will be closed Thursday.
And the City of Alexandria government will be closed Thursday. This affects all city recreation centers, libraries, museums and clinics.
7:09 p.m. Woman injured after awning collapses on her
A woman standing in her backyard in Kettering had her awning collapse on her, breaking her leg and trapping her under snow and debris, said Mark Brady, a Prince George's County fire department spokesman. A family member had pulled the woman from the debris when firefighters arrived to the home in the 11200 block of Lennox Drive about 5 p.m.
Also, firefighters were called for a garage and kennel collapse in the 3100 block of Marquis Drive in Fort Washington at 5:20 p.m., where rescuers were told a Chow was trapped under a kennel in the backyard. Firefighters worked for 30 minutes trudging through the back yard and removing snow and lumber to reach the dog.
"They couldn't see the dog, but they could hear it barking," Brady said.
The dog was rescued unharmed and returned to his owner.
Downed limbs and trees:
Prince George's: 301-499-8600.
7:04 p.m. Federal government to shut down Thursday
Federal agencies across the nation's capital will close on Thursday for a fourth straight day -- taking the week-long shutdown of the government into uncharted territory, according to Federal Eye.
6:55 p.m. Bethesda parking wars
For the past few snow days, neighborhood listservs in Bethesda have lit up with anxious and annoyed residents worried that they aren't receiving mail, newspapers, or other deliveries on their streets. Now a new problem has emerged. On street parking, or lack there of. And whose street is it, anyway?
Some of the posters have complained that outlanders from unplowed streets have been parking on nearby plowed streets. The laments came even though the streets are public and available for parking by anyone. Most Bethesda neighborhood streets are not on declared snow emergency routes where parking is banned.
Jim Laurenson, who lives in the Wyngate neighborhood and is transplanted from Massachusetts, where snow is not a four-letter word, said he has an easy fix that could help restore peace to the neighborhood.
"How about a rule where if the storm starts on an even numbered day, park on an even numbered side of the street?" he suggested. And if it starts on an odd day, parking would be allowed on the odd-numbered side of the street.
That way, what happened on Melvern Drive where he lives might be avoided. When the plow finally came through early this week, Laurenson said, the driver had to lift the blade to avoid teetering into the cars parked on either side, leaving
some parts of the street unplowed.
-- Miranda S. Spivack
6:37 p.m. Metro to limit service to underground Thursday
Metro has decided to limit service to underground stations only on Thursday. Metrobus and MetroAccess service are expected to remain suspended on Thursday.
6:07 p.m. Amtrak to alter service Thursday
Severe winter weather and downed trees and power lines have prompted Amtrak to alter much of its Thursday service.
5:40 p.m. Getting around will be a challenge on Thursday
Metro officials are anticipating that the system will only run rail service underground Thursday and will limit bus and MetroAccess services, or suspend the latter operations altogether. Montgomery County's Ride On bus system has announced it will not operate on Thursday.
4:54 p.m. Raucous snowball fight
About 400 people joined a raucous hours long snowball fight at Dupont Circle Wednesday afternoon that pitted waves of combatants on the low ground against a small group manning the fountain.
"It's organized chaos," said Lindsey Herbert, 22, her face red and snowy after another assault. "You get pumped up and it's every man for himself. If you survive you're doing good."
Eddie Zielinski readied another snowball, calibrating his shot with the wind. "The people on the high ground have the advantage, but if the Civil War is a lesson, the north will prevail," said Zielinski, 29, who works for Fannie Mae and was positioned on the north side of the circle.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Marie Drissel, whose family has lived in the District since the Civil War.
By 4 p.m., the fight was still going strong although the first waves of participants had retreated in ski gear and boots to bars and coffee shops that remained open on the perimeter.
--Ann Scott Tyson
4:48 p.m. Baby rides home in style
Wilmont Francis Smith IV had a problem Wednesday. Or his parents had one. After Wilmont's birth three days earlier, the family had no way to get home from St. Mary's Hospital because of the snowstorm. So the hospital called the county sheriff's office wondering if the police might be willing to give Wilmont and his folks a ride.
While the police wanted to make it clear that they are not in the taxi business, this time they were willing to make an exception "due to the unusual circumstances and out of compassion for the parents and their new baby," according to a statement they issued.
And so Corporal Stephen Simonds, driving one of the department's four-wheel drive vehicles, was dispatched. Simonds successfully delivered parents Jasmine Berry, 19, and Wilmont Francis Smith III, 19 to their Lexington Park home, giving Wilmont a story he'll be telling and retelling the rest of his life.
4:37 p.m. Weather blamed for school gas leak
Winter weather was the underlying cause of Tuesday’s break in a natural-gas line in Northwest Washington, according to Washington Gas.
A chunk of ice fell from the roof of Lafayette Elementary School, striking the gas meter outside the school and disconnecting the line, utility company spokesman Ruben Rodriguez said Wednesday. Residents of the area heard what they said sounded like an explosion, followed by the hiss of escaping gas.
Rodriguez said workers from the gas utility went to the scene promptly and shut off the flow of escaping gas. The “situation is under control now,” he said.
Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the D.C. fire and emergency services department said the statement by the gas company is consistent with the fire department’s findings.
-- Martin Weil
4:25 p.m. Damage report from Virginia
Between 8 a.m. Tuesday and 12 p.m. Wednesday, Virginia state police say they handled 1,872 calls for service including 709 traffic accidents and 669 disabled vehicles. The Fairfax Division alone, state police said, responded to 316 calls for service, including 78 accidents and 176 disabled vehicles.
No one died, police said, and the majority of accidents involved only damaged vehicles. Still, there was some cause for concern. Since the weekend, police said, 11 troopers who stopped on the roads to investigate crashes or provide assistance were struck by out-of-control vehicles, authorities said. Four of them suffered minor injuries, authorities said.
And the task is ongoing. State Police said they were responding to a series of crashes and disabled vehicles in both the east and westbound lanes of I-64 between Exit 234/Lightfoot (James City County) and Exit 258/J. Traffic is backed up in both directions as troopers work to clear the wrecked and disabled vehicles, police said. No one was injured.
State Police are also trying to clear a jack-knifed tractor-trailer blocking the westbound lanes of I-64 at the 231 mile marker, police said.
4:00 p.m. Here comes the sun
The sun was faintly visible through the clouds in downtown Washington about 3:30 p.m. Both wind and snowfall appeared to be easing, and crews with snowblowers and shovels were beginning to clear sidewalks.
3:50 p.m. Fairfax closes schools for week
Fairfax joined the growing list of D.C.-area school districts to close for the entire week. Here's the full list:
Closed for the week: Montgomery, Fairfax, Prince George’s, Prince William, Arlington, Loudoun, Anne Arundel, Howard, Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles Counties.
Alexandria schools will be closed Thursday. D.C. schools have yet to make a determination about whether to close school Thursday.
3:35 p.m. The wind is our friend
If there was a silver lining in this storm, it was this: despite intensely high winds and near white-out conditions, people did not lose power in droves as some expected.
As of about 4 p.m., about 11,000 customers were without power in the D.C. region. And even in the blizzard's peak, outages were less than those over the weekend. BGE, for example, recorded about 35,000 outages during this storm, compared to about 97,000 for the weekend, a company spokesman said. Pepco recorded a peak outage figure of 7,200 early this afternoon, far below the tens of thousands of customers the company had without power on Saturday and Sunday.
The reason, Pepco spokesman Robert Dobkin said, was threefold. First, the weekend storm actually cleared out many of the weak trees and branches so that only the strongest remained, ready for this storm, he said. Second, this storm brought a drier, lighter snow, and the fierce winds were quick to blow it off branches.
"I think this snow was drier than it was forecast to be and instead of the snow laying in these evergreens, the winds were blowing it off, and I think that’s what made the difference," Dobkin said. "And another factor is a lot of the weak trees and weakened limbs probably came down last weekend, clearing out the problem vegetation...That also enters into the equation here."
Dobkin said crews were "pleasantly surprised" by the fewer outages but, "We’re just not out of the woods yet." Roads in many areas are still impassable, he said, and crews are down to the point of making repairs that only bring power back to a few customers at a time. He said he could not guess when power would be restored.
Since about 9 a.m., crews had been ordered to shelter in their cars or head back to base camp because fierce winds and heavy snowfall made working unsafe, Dobkin said. He said the snow has now lessened (though the winds have not), and officials feel that repairmen can now use their judgment in deciding whether or not to continue their jobs.
"The visibility lifted enough ... but we’ve urged them to use extreme caution and discretion in terms of whether to go up in the buckets to make repairs because of these gusty winds," Dobkin said.
3:10 p.m. It's history
Winter 2009-2010 is the snowiest on record, says the Capital Weather Gang.
By noon Wednesday, she and her husband, Matt, of Hyattsville, were welcoming 6-pound 6-ounce Regina, or "blizzard baby" as her Dad quickly dubbed her.
The couple had planned and prepared for a home birth. But they were looking at a due date about three weeks away when the squalls and the labor pains hit. "I thought this can't be happening," said Jolene Bowman, 32.
A midwife and a birthing assistant both drove to the Bowman home, one from nearly an hour away, said Matt Bowman, 34.
"My wife is a very strong woman," said Bowman and is "very calm and knowledgeable."
Regina has a brother, Gregory, 7, and sister, Gloria, 2. Both were born in autumn.
--Mary Pat Flaherty
2:55 p.m. Loudoun County road closures
Loudoun County officials announced that sections of several roads have been closed because of the dangerous conditions. Route 287 north of Route 7 bypass, Route 690 at the Town of Purcellville line, Route 601 at Route 7, and Short Hill Road at Allder School Road have been closed. Traffic is being restricted on Route 15 at Oak Hill Road, officials said.
2:52 p.m. Governor's urge patience and caution
Maryland's Gov. Martin O'Malley said residents should not expect most state roads to be plowed to bare pavement until at least Friday afternoon, the Maryland Politics blog reports.
"We are all accustomed and desire to see our county and city crews ... being able to scrape the snow down to the pavement. That will not be a possibility over the next 72 hours," O'Malley said.
Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has said that state offices in Northern Virginia will remain closed Wednesday and is urging caution to residents.
"These wind chills are very dangerous and create significant risk for injury or worse with people being out for sustained periods of time," McDonnell said.
2:41 p.m. Maybe not the best course of action
Crime Scene reports that a 21-year-old woman has been charged with assault on a police officer after a District officer was hit in the face with an "ice ball" during a large snowball fight early Wednesday morning near the Wonderland Ballroom at 11th and Kenyon streets NW, according to police spokesman Sgt. Nicholas Breul. The arrest is the latest in snowball fight police news.
2:29 p.m. Why power is still on
Though it's too early to call with blizzard-like conditions still whipping the D.C.-area, it seems this storm has caused far fewer power outages than its predecessor. At the height of this weekend's "snowmageddon," more than 200,000 customers were without power, authorities said. As of about 2 p.m. today, "snoverkill" had left a little more than 11,000 in the dark.
Joe Woomer, director of distribution reliability for Dominion, explains thusly: "Just the amount of heavy snow that we got over the weekend, this will be a little bit drier snow, the wind will actually help us a bit taking snow off the trees this morning, then it will be mainly a wind event this afternoon," he said. "It’s a little bit different, different complexities at this point."
2:23 p.m. It's hard for the National Guard, too
Sgt. James Young, 29, of the D.C. National Guard dodged explosives in Iraq while stationed there in 2006 and 2007. "I'll take sand and mud any day to this," Young said as he guided a Humvee through barely- plowed city streets Wednesday, going 15 mph as fierce winds whipped everything white.
The D.C. National Guard has been assisting D.C. Police and the fire department since the first snowfall last Friday. About 118 personnel with 23 vehicles have been picking up officers in the suburbs and bringing them to work and helping paramedics stuck in the snow to transport patients. They even transported an assistant police chief to a police-involved shooting.
Young and his partner, Sgt. Michael Eke, 25, left the D.C. Armory about 10 a.m. in response to a report of another Humvee and an ambulance that were stuck at 44th St. NW and Reservoir Rd. As the vehicle rumbled along, passing joggers and residents digging out cars, they were greeted with waves and thumbs-up signs. Snowflakes and wind crept into the vehicle through cracks in a door made of plastic and vinyl.
It took an hour to travel make the trip, a distance of less than nine miles. As they got closer to the location, word came over the radio: the Humvee and ambulance were no longer stuck.
They turned around, headed back to home base to warm up before heading out again
-- Theola Labbé-DeBose
2:20 p.m. School systems giving up on the week
Most school systems have thrown in the towel this week and are assessing the impact the Washington area snow storm is having on education. Some educators began pointing students and parents toward Internet resources. Others are trying to find a way to make up for the lost time.
2:05 p.m. More snow on the way
As the band of snow that "clobbered" the Washington region continued into its last few hours of severe wind and snow, Capital Weather Gang chief meteorologist Jason Samenow says that a "more modest" snow storm may strike the area on Monday.
"Most likely it will be a modest event. In an ordinary winter it might have been an exciting event, but not this year," Samenow said.
Cautioning that "it's too far out" to make any firm forecast, Samenow was fairly confident that whatever comes our way won't tap into Atlantic moisture the way Wednesday's storm did, creating the explosive weather pattern that swept over the region.
"The way it looks now it would be a light event," he said, studying radar patterns. "But the way this winter has been going I wouldn't rule anything out."
Forecasters had been saying all week that the intensity of Wednesday's storm would depend on where and how an upper level low pressure area combined force with a developing coastal storm. Had the meeting taken place off the New Jersey coast, the worst of the storm would have struck farther north, but that didn't happen.
"It formed fast enough and far enough south that it plastered the whole D.C. region," Samenow said. "This is a more intense storm than the one this past weekend. It's a deeper cyclone with lower barometric pressure and higher winds."
Samenow said the snowfall of eight to 12 inches in the District and immediately surrounding area brought the season's snowfall to within an inch of the record set in 1888-89, and may have broken it.
"I never thought I would see a winter like this one in my lifetime," said Samenow, a native of the area.
1:55 p.m. Nearly 10 more inches in North Arlington?
There's roughly 9 to 10 new inches of snow in North Arlington as of 1:15 p.m., but it is nearly impossible to measure because high winds are creating massive drifts and sending plumes of snow swirling through the streets.
While during the weekend snowstorm people in the Maywood neighborhood were outside shoveling as the snow fell, trying to get ahead of the accumulation, people appear to be staying inside this time. Winds are sending snow sideways, caking residential windows, and visibility is minimal.
Roads that were plowed on Monday to allow single cars to pass through the streets are again completely covered.
1:50 p.m. Maryland's O'Malley: You won't see pavement until Friday
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley crews are working as hard as they can but with blizzard-like conditions, it's unlikely drivers will see bare pavement until Friday. "We are all accustomed and desire to see our county and city crews ... being able to scrape the snow down to the pavement. That will not be a possibility over the next 72 hours," O'Malley said.
1:20 p.m. Wish we were there
The misery of it all inspired creative thinking.
When the power went out for another time Tuesday morning, one family in the Carderock neighborhood decided it could either go wait out the heatlessness in a local hotel -- or give up on Washington altogether and hit the road.
Not a hard choice.
At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, the family of four started the 15-hour haul to see a relative in Florida. At 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, as blizzard winds thrashed Washington, the family was closing in on West Palm Beach.
"Beautiful. Sunny. Seventy degrees," reported Sheryl, who did not want her last name used so as to not make public that their house was unattended.
Only 70 degrees?
It's a little cool for this time of year," she allowed. "But that's OK. I'll take this over that."
--Donna St. George
1:10 p.m. "This is serious"
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said visibility on the roads is now less than 10 feet. "It's so limited that you can barely see past the bumper of your car," she said. "The snow is really blinding."
Prince George's public Safety Director Vernon Herron said that help may not be available for some time for stranded motorists. "People need to stay home, play with their kids, make chocolate chip cookies, watch movies and let us clean this up," he said. "This is serious."
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake imposed a "driving ban" in the city as law enforcement officials around the region urged drivers to stay home.
Under the ban, motorists face being stopped and ticketed or their cars towed if they are caught on the roads, a police dispatcher said.
1:05 p.m. Museum artifacts safe after roof collapse
The storage facility for the National Air and Space Museum in Suitland that suffered a roof collapse contained 800 pieces of art. They are housed, according to museum spokeswoman Claire Brown, in a large box, similar to a meat locker, and is environmentally sound. In other parts of the Building No. 21, there are about 1,500 artifacts from various other collections of the museum, including parts of airplanes and spacecraft. "There are all in crates and protective materials on the shelves," said Brown.
The building is part of a large storage facility for the Smithsonian, with many of the buildings dating back to World War II and the 1950s. All are scheduled to be replaced in the near future.
Collections managers for the Air and Space Museum were able to enter the building earlier Wednesday. "They went in and determined there was no loss," said Brown. Currently, the building is closed to everyone.
12:35 p.m. Surprising number of SUV accidents
Maryland highway officials said enough road cameras are working to verify that most people were heeding warnings to stay off the roads, but that there had been numerous accidents.
"It's staggering to hear how many SUVs are flipping over," said David Buck, spokesman for the State Highway Administration. "Today's not the day to venture out. With 40 to 50 mph winds blowing old snow and new, it can be impossible to see where the lanes are."
Buck said lenses had frozen over on some of the cameras that beam road conditions to the state's emergency command center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Maryland snow plow operators had the okay to pull to the side of the road when high winds made it impossible to see, but snow clearing operations continued when conditions allowed.
"We're not pulling them, but we're telling them to use their judgment on when to pull over to the side. Those guys are high up in massive pieces of machinery, but it's still hard to see," Buck said. "We're seeing a lot of the local jurisdictions making the same decisions."
Buck said the SHA had mechanics working around the clock to keep the equipment running.
"This is unprecedented in many, many ways -- two blizzards in a week," Buck said. "We've still got 85 to 90 percent of our equipment working."
Buck said the state's salt supply was holding up.
"This is a plowing storm right now," he said. "As it winds down later today we'll be using more salt. Going into this one we still had 50 percent of our annual supply left."
No firm target has been set for when the state expects to be dug out.
"We don't have any idea yet," he said. "We still have eight to 10 hours of accumulation to deal with today."
12:30 p.m. The non-stop vet
Veterinarian David Tuthill said he has been living at the Beltway Emergency Veterinary Hospital in Glenn Dale, where he is managing partner, since Sunday. But he has been affected by the snow since the day it first began, when the family of a Shih-Tzu he'd operated on couldn't come get her.
"I had to take her home because her owners couldn't get to the clinic," Tuthill said. (The dog has since been recovered by her family.)
The hospital, which normally operates only from 6:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., has extended its hours to accommodate area residents who can't get their pets to other veterinarians, said Tuthill.
Bethel Emme, office manager of the hospital -- and a Wisconsin native, noted an unplowed stretch of Route 450 near the hospital. "In Wisconsin," Emme said, "there would be plows nonstop."
Two pets were being treated on Wednesday morning at the house-like facility.
--Hamil R. Harris
12:15 p.m. D.C. ambulance crews struggle to reach patients
Response times for ambulances in the District have been slowed because of whiteout conditions, and dialysis patients in need of treatment have made up the bulk of emergency calls, the city's fire and EMS spokesman said.
"We're making all the calls; its challenging, of course," said spokesman Pete Piringer. "We don't have that many calls going on, but the ones we are having, we are sending additional units, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and we also have some National Guard Humvees."
12:15: So far, so good for WSSC
Officials with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission are keeping a close eye on the electric power that runs their sewage treatment and water filtration plants. Despite the freezing temperatures, water main breaks have not been a particular problem because temperatures have been staying mostly in the 20s, said WSSC spokesman Jim Neustadt. Corroded pipes are most vulnerable to rapid temperature fluctuations. The number of water main breaks has hovered at about five a day over the past two weeks, according to WSSC records.
About 600 essential WSSC employees have been working round-the-clock, many of them staying over in hotels or at depots and plants, Neustadt said. Crews are plowing snow to keep about 100 facilities, including water storage tanks, accessible, Neustadt said.
The sewage treatment and water filtration plants have back-up generators or multiple sources of power in case of electrical problems, Neustadt said. “Power is a big concern for us,” he said. “Obviously we have to worry about the safety of our people as well.”
The WSSC provides water and sewer services to 1.8 million customers in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Water main breaks or problems can be reported to 301-206-4002.
— Katherine Shaver
12:00 p.m. District calling in extra equipment
Describing Wednesday's blizzard as "outrageous," D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said the city will be calling in extra equipment to start digging out snowbound residents. At a mid-morning update, Fenty said the District will likely have its all-time snowiest winter this season, and he urged residents to be patient as crews began trying to remove the snow.
11:34 a.m. District plows on the road again
Snow crews armed with an array of additional equipment continued to plow District streets Wednesday morning, pausing only when white-out conditions made driving too dangerous, said Karyn LeBlanc of the District Department of Transportation.
"We did let crews pull over to let white-out conditions pass but they're back at it," LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said Bobcats, more dump trucks and front end loaders had been deployed in the effort to clear the ever-growing mountains of snow pushed aside by plows. The snow is being trucked to a lot behind D.C. General Hospital and another at 11th and M streets, S.E.
"We are in maintenance mode right now," she said. "We are trying to maintain the major roads, bridges and overpasses. Right now I'm looking at U Street [on a traffic camera] and it is passable. It's a little rough, but passable. You can get through."
LeBlanc said the city had plenty of salt to spread on the roads
LeBlanc said the District's goal was to have all major roadways passable within 48 hours of the storm's end, and to reach all residential streets within 60 hours.
11:25 a.m.: It must be serious, they're closing malls
Bowie Town Center, Lakeforest Mall, St. Charles Town Center and The Fashion Center at Pentagon are all closing, according to the Simon Property Group. Now there really is nowhere to go.
11:15 a.m Metro's single-tracking explained
Metro stored an unprecedented number of rail cars in underground tunnels on Tuesday night as the blizzard was hitting the Washington area to minimize the labor-intensive job of digging them out from railyards, a Metro official said Wednesday.
As a result, many underground trains are operating only on single tracks Wednesday because the other tracks are packed with rail cars, said Metro spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. The trains continue to run on roughly 24- to 30-minute intervals, she said.
“We are providing underground service on a single track because the other track is filled with trains,” she said. “Digging out rail yards is extremely time-consuming, it takes a combination of plow, shovel, and tow trucks, so we decided to get as many cars underground as possible,” she said.
Metro employees are reaching the point of exhaustion after days of battling snow and ice to keep service running. “We are seeing extreme fatigue in the staff. They have been dealing with snow for a solid week,” Farbstein said. “People are working shifts but they are physically and mentally exhausted.”
Today's wind isn't helping. “It may not be worthwhile trying to clear stuff with 40-mile-per-hour winds,” she said.
--Ann Scott Tyson
11:02 a.m. Arlington stops plowing, too
All snowplowing operations in Arlington have been temporarily suspended until weather conditions improve, the city just announced.
11:00: Many Power Repairs Continue
Dominion, Baltimore Gas and Electric and the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative have not pulled back on repair crews. When it is not safe in particular areas, officials say, their crews will wait inside their vehicles. But when it is safe, they'll get to work.
"It’s really location and time specific," said Joe Woomer, Dominion's director of distribution reliability. "Where I am in Fairfax right now its pretty calm and very safe to work. Meanwhile, out in the Charlottesville area, its blowing pretty hard there so the crews will stand down until the wind subsides."
Linda Foy, a BGE spokeswoman, said power company officials are having "ongoing conversations" with state and local officials about pulling back crews, but no firm decisions have been made. Tom Dennison, a SMECO spokesman, said similarly that officials are carefully monitoring the situation.
Pepco pulled all its crews back at about 9 a.m., instructing repairmen to wait the storm out in their vehicles, a company spokesman said.
As of about 10:20 a.m., Dominion had 1,799 customers without power in Northern Virginia, SMECO had about 500 without power in Southern Maryland and BGE had 14,572 without power in central Maryland. Pepco had 3,959 powerless customers in Prince George's, Montgomery and D.C.
10:45: Roof collapse at Smithsonian facility
A warehouse that is part of the Smithsonian Museum Support Center at 3904 Old Silver Hill Road in Suitland has suffered a roof collapse, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George's County Fire and Emergency Services.
"This large warehouse facility is the Smithsonian's primary off-site storage facility. It stores artifacts," he said.
The building that sustained damage is warehouse No. 21 at the Garber Facility.
"It is unknown what, if any, artifacts are affected by this roof collapse," Brady said.
"Prince George’s County firefighters have responded to several reports of roof collapses since yesterday," he said. "Some of these collapses involved detached structures, for example, carports and sheds.
On other calls, residents noticed unusual sounds or cracks in walls and firefighters investigated any potential for collapse. Fortunately, no one has been injured in any of these collapses today."
10:42 a.m. Virginia, Prince George's Still Plowing
While Montgomery and the District are pulling plows off the road, at least temporarily, other areas have soldiered on.
Prince George's County Public Safety Director Vernon Herron said plowing is continuing, but has been complicated by motorists on roadways, white-out conditions and problems with overtaxed snow removal equipment. In Northern Virginia, plows continued to operate on major roads and in the 9,000 miles of subdivision roadways, said Joan Morris of the Virginia Department of Transportation.
"It's not everywhere, but I'm seeing white-out conditions all over," said Morris, monitoring live roadway cameras from the state's emergency center. "There have been rumors that we've pulled the plows, but that's inaccurate. When there's a white out, plows pull over to the side until it's clear enough to see, just like any driver would."
Said Herron: "This second round of snow really has me concerned," he said. "During the first round on the weekend, we had a lot of challenges with broken chains and damaged equipment. The equipment that we are all using in the Washington D.C. is not necessarily able to handle all this snow."
In Virginia., additional crews and 200 pieces of plowing equipment arrived overnight from Hampton Roads, Richmond and Lynchburg.
"The good news is that we're still in the subdivisions," Morris said.
As the latest storm approached, Virginia anticipated that plows working neighborhoods would return to clearing primary roads, but after the arrival of reinforcements, many of them smaller vehicles that could work narrower streets, the plowing continued.
"We're hearing that blizzard conditions will continue until 7 tonight," Morris said. "It's very dangerous out there."
Several hours of pelting sleet overnight left a glaze of ice beneath the snow on some road surfaces. There had been concern that salt supplies would be exhausted, but Morris said more was on the way. "We're being frugal with it but we have enough for this storm," she said. "We usually put down 425 pounds per lane mile. We've reduced that to 350 pounds to preserve our limited amounts. It will take a little longer to burn off [the snow and ice] but it's still adequate. We're probably a little aggressive with our normal salt use."
Herron said Prince George's officials are chagrined at the number of cars on the roads. "We are asking that residents stay off the streets. It is dangerous. We cannot guarantee citizens' safety if they venture out ... just got off the phone with the Department of Public Works and Transportation. They said they are having trouble keeping up with the snow because of the white-out conditions. I recommended that if conditions become too hazardous, they should not be out there plowing."
--Avis Thomas-Lester and Ashley Halsey
10:25 a.m. The show doesn't go on
The Disney on Ice shows scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Verizon Center have been canceled, because of the blizzard. Ford’s Theatre has canceled its 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. Thursday performances.
10:08 a.m.: Walking in Capitol Hill difficult
Steve Horbath, 33, ventured out of his Capitol Hill home Wednesday to the Union Station Starbucks. But in the harsh, driving snow it was not a fun walk.
"It is intense," Horbath said. "The wind is blowing the snow in your face. You can't see. You can't even see the streets."
His friend, Steve Kessler, 24, came downtown Tuesday evening to meet friend for drinks. He suspects it may be a while before he gets back to his Montgomery County home.
"Happy hour became a day and I think it will become two days," Kessler said.
10:06 a.m. No longer safe for Pepco crews
About 9 a.m. Wednesday, Pepco pulled back its crews working to repair downed power lines and other electric equipment, saying conditions were too unsafe for them to continue working.
Repairmen were told to "take shelter inside their trucks until the storm abates and conditions are deemed safe for them to work," said Robert Dobkin, a Pepco spokesman. He said it was unclear when conditions would improve enough for crews to return to work.
As of about 9:50 a.m., Pepco had more than 3,500 customers without power, including 2205 in Montgomery County, 1356 in Prince George's County and 182 in the District.
10:00 a.m. Fairfax hit hard
Nearly 2,400 households in Fairfax County are without power, officials say. As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, 2,366 electrical meters were out of service in the county, said spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald. Low visibility and strong winds, some reaching at least 50 mph, have buoyed concerns about power outages and vehicle accidents, Fitzgerald said. Dispatchers at the McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center in Fairfax are fielding calls with life-threatening emergencies and routing other calls to police and utility lines.
Officials say a report at about 8:30 a.m. of sagging roof at a single-family home in Springfield caused concern (no injuries were reported) but that compared to Maryland and the District, Northern Virginia has been spared. Since midnight, only 325 emergency calls have come through the McConnell center; typical nights can result in 900 calls.
"We've been very fortunate so far," said Steve Souder, director of the Fairfax County 911 Center. "We still have a ways to go though."
Calls will likely pick up once the snowfall ebbs. Extra dispatchers and the National Guard have been called to the 9-1-1 Center.
9:46 a.m. Tractor-trailers jackknife in blizzard conditions
Another tractor trailer has jackknifed, this one on the inner loop of I-95 near Allentown Road. It has been pushed to the shoulder while it awaits a tow truck, Maryland State Police in Forestville said. Only two lanes of I-95 are driveable near the tractor trailer.
Not all are heeding officials advice to stay off the road during this blizzard. Maryland State Police in Rockville have had to respond to two jackknifed tractor-trailers. One remained stuck on southbound I-270 at Route 121 about 9 a.m.
9 a.m. Power outage at the Columbia Heights Metro A partial power outage has some of the lights and fare gates out on the mezzanine level of the Columbia Heights Metro station, but officials said at 9 a.m. that the problem should be resolved in 15 to 20 minutes.
It's unclear what caused the outage, which only affected some lights and the fare gates on one side of the station, said Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesman. He said train operations were not affected, and repair crews were on their way to the station to fix the problem.
No other station had power outages Wednesday morning, Taubenkibel said.
Also of note, Prince George's county's TheBus and Call-A-Cab has been suspended. A decision on whether services will resume on Thursday will be made late Wednesday.
8:59 a.m. Winds whip Wisconsin native, too
The wind has picked up dramatically, blowing snow into a haze that has reduced visibility to a few blocks.
Streets in the Chevy Chase D.C. neighborhood are deserted except for "fools" like Lee Schoenecker, 71, a retired urban planner who lives in the 5500 block of 30th Place.
"Just shoveling to keep up with it," he said as he paused, his eyeglasses covered with snow. "Shovel early. Shovel a lot."
"Right now it's blizzard conditions," he said. "When I first came out here about a half hour ago it wasn't."
"I've lived here for 30 years. I grew up in southern Wisconsin. This snow in accumulation, December, last couple days is as bad as I've ever seen in southern Wisconsin. Absolutely. And that includes some pretty big snows."
"That's serious winter weather," he said.
Wind whipped snow around him as he spoke. The rain gutters on the house next door had collapsed.
Amid the eerie quiet, the only sound was the muffled ringing of a set of windchimes.
--Michael E. Ruane
8:23 a.m. Rush hour not so rushed at Union Station
With the snow continuing to pile up outside, the normally bustling Metro platform at Union Station was nearly deserted during Wednesday morning rush hour. Trains were running, but like the rest of the city they were a bit sluggish.
Charles Scott, 23, bundled in a hat and warm coat, waited for a train to ferry him to his job at the Washington Club in Dupont Circle. Scott usually hops on Metro at the New York Avenue station near his home. But with above-ground service supended, a friend with a truck gave him a lift to the underground stop
"I'm sick of the snow," Scott said. But staying home wasn't an option: "I'm not full time," he said, "I come as needed."
The heaviest snowfall is expected Wednesday morning through early afternoon. The blizzard warning now extends to the entire Washington region. For the latest developments on the snow storm, stay with the Capital Weather Gang.
No mail delivery todayMail service also has been suspended across the Washington region. That means no
mail deliveries in the District, Maryland, and northern and western portions of Virginia stretching south to Fredricksburg, according to Federal Eye.
7:36 a.m. Flights suspended at Reagan and Dulles
Flight operations have been suspended at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport, and officials expect them to remain that way through Wednesday, an airport spokeswoman said.
The problem should come as no surprise: there's lots of snow and no place to put it, said Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority. And with the wind moving in late Wednesday morning, officials are worried the snow that has been plowed away might blow right back onto the runways.
“The problem is everything,” Hamilton said. “The problem is this is day six.”
Hamilton said Reagan will surely be shut down all Wednesday. There is a very small chance Dulles might take some flights in the evening, but it will be definitely be shut down through the early afternoon and likely will remain so through the end of Wednesday, Hamilton said.
Hamilton said airlines are “tentatively looking to resume operations tomorrow,” but officials will make a determination whether that is possible after assessing the runways later Wednesday afternoon.
First, you’re not alone: according to company spokesman Robert Dobkin, there are 1,572 who have been in the dark for more than a day – some of them have probably been without power since the weekend snow storm. Second, do not worry about this latest storm putting you back at the end of the line for restoration: the longer you have been out, the higher priority you will have to get power back, Dobkin said.
“We are working to get the longest people out now back in service before the numbers climb with new outages, and we’ll keep working to get those frustrated customers back,” Dobkin said. “I can understand their anger, their frustration, but you know, we’re doing what we can."
That said, Dobkin said this latest storm will complicate restoration efforts. Crews are already having to walk to damaged poles and power lines in areas inaccessible by vehicle. And in some cases, they’re having to climb poles instead of being lifted by equipment, he said. The wind will exacerbate efforts, he said, by making it unsafe for crews to do any work.
“Let’s face it: today’s weather’s going to complicate it and increase the problem,” he said.” It’s a risky deal. The winds will blow the buckets around and you’re trying to make repairs and sometimes dealing with live wires.”
6:31 a.m. Power outages still a problem
Even before the wind has really picked up, the latest winter storm has left (or, in some cases, kept) more than 3,000 customers in the D.C. region without power, and officials expect it to get worse before it gets better.
Based on numbers just before 6 a.m., Pepco customers bore the brunt of the outages: 2,352 of them were without power in Montgomery, 82 were without power in the District and 206 were without power in Prince George’s. Dominion reported 249 customers without power in Northern Virginia, and BGE reported 542 customers without power in Maryland, including 105 in Prince George’s and 53 in Anne Arundel.
Some customers remained without power since the weekend’s storm, and power company officials said restoring them would be a priority, even if doing so might be difficult as weather conditions worsened. Richard Zuercher, a Dominion spokesman, said about 100 of his company’s customers were still without power from the last storm, mainly in the Woodbridge-Herndon-Leesburg area. Linda Foy, a BGE spokesman, said 16 of her company’s customers were without power since the last storm. Fifteen, lost service on Monday; one, she said, lost it on Saturday.
“They are obviously a priority for restoration, but we actually cannot do a lot of restoration work while the storm is in the area,” Foy said.
Officials were reluctant to offer predictions about what outages this latest storm might cause, and they said it was far too early to guess when all the damage would be repaired. But they said this storm seemed to be similar to the so-called “snowmageddon,” which brought heavy, wet snow and high winds to the area. Those elements, they said, are likely to cause more power outages as they push more trees and branches into power lines.
“If we get the wind that has been forecasted, we do expect to see outages,” Foy said. “Complicating matters for our customers and even for our crews, traveling conditions are very hazardous.”
-- Matt Zapotosky
| February 10, 2010; 7:40 PM ET
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