“Crippling” Winter Storm Arrives

Some areas could see foot of snow

After a day of scrambling around for a season's worth of staples -- milk, toilet paper, canned food -- shovels, rock salt, deicer and sleds, as well as some premature last-minute Christmas shopping, the area welcomed the much hyped winter storm that has left many waiting for the snow plows to show up on their streets Saturday morning.

NBC4 meteorologist Tom Kierein said the storm has the potential to be the worst December snowstorm for the D.C. area in at least the past 25 years. And NBC chief meteorologist Bob Ryan describes the impending storm as "crippling."

The last time the District had 6 inches of snow in December was 1982, Kierein said.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Friday night through Saturday. The strong low-pressure system developing over the Gulf of Mexico could move into the D.C. area Friday night, bringing snowfall with it and affecting travel. Drivers should be cautious; flyers should keep an eye out for flight cancellations. Happy Holidays!

The snow could continue through Sunday morning, but the heaviest snowfall will be between late Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon, when 1 to 2 inches could fall per hour.

The snowfall could be heaviest south of the city. Ryan predicts 8 to 16 inches of snow throughout the area with a 60 percent chance of 10 inches or more in the DIstrict. Expect 4 inches by 7 a.m. Saturday and as much as a foot Saturday afternoon, with the blizzard tapering Saturday evening. Of course, that forecast could change, so keep checking for updates.

Temps through the storm are expected to be in the upper 20s and lower 30s. Expect winds of 10-to-20 mph with gusts of 25-to-30 mph.  Kierein said those wind gusts will be strong from midday Saturday and into Sunday morning, causing blowing and drifting snow.

"It could take a couple of days to dig out," Kierein said.

The storm is part of a huge system moving up the East Coast and will affect travel from Florida to New England.  So any and all holiday travel on the East Coast will be problematic this weekend.

Highway crews in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia prepared by spraying brine on heavily traveled roads to help prevent snow and ice from sticking. The Virginia Department of Transportation is putting all equipment -- almost 1,500 vehicles -- in service Saturday and having all available employees working. The Maryland Department of Transportation has 2,300 pieces of equipment and 2,600 employees at the ready.

Officials urged motorists to be cautious in deciding whether to drive Saturday.

Area residents should anticipate snow emergencies that may limit parking. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty announced an emergency Friday evening. That means no parking on snow emergency routes after 7 a.m. Saturday and extra police and firefighters on the streets during the storm.

The City of Frederick, Md., is letting people park for free in their four parking decks in order to get them off snow emergency routes. A snow emergency was issued at 2 p.m. in the City of Falls Church, Va. Residents there also were ordered to remove cars parked along snow emergency routes.

Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero said the railway was putting extra crews on duty, in part to keep ice from forming on the overhead lines that power electric trains. Extra locomotives equipped with snow plows would also be available.

Metro canceled maintenance work scheduled for the weekend work and prepared to clear snow instead. The rail system will operate on typical 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday service. Up to 20 trains will be equipped with deicing equipment.  If the area gets more than 8 inches, above ground service could be suspended. MetroBus and MetroAccess riders can expect delays.

Dominion Virginia Power stocked and fueled trucks to deal with any possible outages. Heavy snowfall could knock trees and limbs into power lines.

Many churches and area school districts are canceling activities and events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The Archdiocese of Washington said dangerous travel conditions caused by bad weather is a legitimate excuse from fulfilling the Sunday obligation to attend Mass. In a statement issued Friday night, the Archdiocese said this was only the second time in 10 years that such an advisory had been issued.

Frostburg State University rescheduled commencement for Monday at 11 a.m.

In closing campus Saturday, the University of Maryland cancelled the Saturday evening main commencement ceremony as well as the final exams scheduled for Saturday. Make-up arrangements are at the discretion of the faculty. Sunday's individual commencements are still on the schedule.

Washington's Catholic University of America also canceled the last day of exams Saturday, leaving it to students and professors to work out how to take about 200 outstanding tests without disrupting holiday travel plans. Erin Vick, a freshman who had two exams set for Saturday, said she was going home to Connecticut and her philosophy professor would e-mail the exam to students.

If you take pictures of the storm, feel free to share them with News4 viewers and NBCWashington.com visitors by e-mailing them to isee@nbcwashington.com.

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