Local Leads: 2/14/2010 - NBC4 Washington

Local Leads: 2/14/2010

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    You may plan on walking around the District to finally get out of the house and get some things done, but District Department of Transportation Director Gabe Klein says you should watch your step.   "Every morning right now when you wake up there's a freeze on the ground, particularly if you're up before the sun comes up" says Klein. "So you may think that you're in the clear, but you can't necessarily see the ice."  Klein says he's seen many people "zipping around," and can't understand why people aren't walking more carefully.  "It's concerning to see people still walking on the street, when a lot of the sidewalks are clear," says Klein.  During the storms and the aftermath, many people chose to walk down the street instead of un-cleared sidewalks, and Klein is now asking people to walk on the sidewalks if they're clear.

    Anyone interested in going sledding at the Capitol? For the first time since the attack of 9/11, Capitol Hill has opened up access to sledding down its lawn for this weekend only.  Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) petitioned for a special waiver to allow residents to take a turn on the normally restricted space, according to The Hill Is Home.  Prior to its access being restricted, Capitol Hill’s lawn has had an illustrious history as one of the best places in D.C. to take a spin on your favorite piece of metal and wood.  The Hill Is Home's report notes that Dodd's wife, Jackie Clegg, spread the word to residents via a Capitol Hill listserv, adding that sledders "may need to let officers know that it is allowed this weekend."   Hey, who knows the next chance you'll get to ride with the majestic Dome in your rear view?

    Record snowfalls have buried profits for hundreds of Washington-area businesses -- not to mention federal and local government agencies. But for some, all that white has translated to more green.  "A lot of area businesses couldn't afford to wipe a week off the map six weeks into the year," said Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.  Historic accumulations of snow have caused thousands of businesses and government agencies across Washington to shut down, many for days at a time.  Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, said the hospitality industry would be especially hard hit.  "The amount of money that businesses are losing is in the millions," Lang said, adding that hotels, restaurants and bars in the District -- those businesses that rely on consistent consumer traffic -- had suffered irretrievable losses.

    Every day is Valentine's Day as one resident of The Virginia Home waits for her sweetheart to come to see her. And most days, she is not disappointed.  An average of 28 days out of every month, Gray Valentine -- yes, that's really his name -- drives the 22 miles from his home in Powhatan County to visit his longtime girlfriend, Rhonda Cassidy, who has lived at the home for disabled adults for about five years.  "I made a decision I would come every day to see her, excluding bad weather and when I had business to do," Valentine, 78, said Monday during a visit to The Virginia Home, which faces Richmond's Byrd Park.  "On Sundays, I bring the dog, and we all three go to church here."  He feeds her lunch every day and supper when time allows, but he likes to get home before dark.  Valentine and Cassidy, 69, have been together since 1988, after they met at church. They lived together for years before Cassidy's multiple sclerosis and his hip surgery made it too difficult for Valentine to care for her.

    An 11-year-old Prince George's County girl was found safe late Saturday in Tennessee, shortly after authorities issued an Amber Alert reporting that they suspected she had been abducted, officials said.  Maryland state police issued the alert around 9 p.m. for Karina Elizabeth Garcia, who they said might be with a man who was operating an orange tractor trailer. They said the 18-wheel tractor was towing a flatbed trailer with Virginia registration.   Prince George's County police said the girl, from Capitol Heights, was last seen about 2 p.m. in that area.

    Forget about the commute -- it's the parking that'll do you in.  Although the District will formally lift the snow emergency and all its attendant parking restrictions today at 5 p.m., it will come as cold comfort to the drivers who've learned a $250 lesson about where not to park when it snows. The District Department of Public Works doesn't list the hefty snowmergency parking fine among its top 20 parking violations and fees list -- which itself is the number-one worst top-20 list ever -- but I bet some drivers would put it near the top.  Yet it's hardly the snow emergency routes that are giving drivers the most grief. Just last night, DCist head honcho Sommer Mathis tweeted that people who decided to park in lanes of traffic were receiving tickets. But now that the curbside lanes are covered over in large drifts of snow, the driving lanes are the new curbside lanes. Many streets in the District have been reduced from four or two lanes down to two or even one lane. (Hence my roommate's crushing three-and-a-half hour drive home from Northern Virginia last night.)