Larry Frum

Storm Team4: Blizzard Ends, But a Long and Frosty Cleanup Will Take Days

Sub-freezing temperatures will make for a difficult dig-out Sunday

The blizzard that has gripped the D.C. area all weekend ended Sunday, after 36-plus hours of snow. But a long -- and cold -- dig-out after the historic storm remains.

This storm will easily rank among the region's 5 worst, and the cleanup is likely to take days, Storm Team4 said. Temperatures dipped below freezing Sunday, which will complicate clearing roads and sidewalks.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said the state government would be closed on Monday as crews continue to open up roadways. He said all interstates were open, and secondary streets were being hit very hard to get them open as soon as possible.

He said 13,000 pieces of equipment and 39,000 workers have been clearing roads, pushing snow away from travel lanes. However, he stressed eventually, the snow would have to be picked up and moved.

McAuliffe said the costs of cleaning up the snowstorm would run $2-$3 million per hour, easily making it the most expensive snow event in the state's history.

"Please stay of the roads," the governor said. "Give us the time to do what we need to do."

He said there were more than 1,200 vehicle accidents and five fatalities attributed to the storm.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced public schools in the District of Columbia will be closed on Monday. The school system is responsible for nearly 49,000 students.

Bowser said officials were still assessing whether government offices would open Monday, but she said officials would "do everything possible to get our government open tomorrow."

Governments are doing what they can to help. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan closed interstates 270 and 70 on Saturday so that plows could clear the roads. They reopened shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday, but officials urge drivers to stay off the roads, if possible.

Hogan said at a news conference late Sunday morning that even though the storm has passed and the sun is shining, roads remain "extremely treacherous."

He says all mass and public transit remain offline and said he would decide later Sunday whether state employees will need to report to their jobs on Monday.

Hogan says Maryland has fared well so far, with no traffic fatalities in the storm and fewer than 300 customers still without electricity from a high of 10,000 during the height of the storm.

Virginia and D.C. officials also asked people to stay off the road and not to walk in the roads so crews can more easily get the streets cleared. All areas are expecting major roads to be passable on Sunday, but they said work on sidestreets and smaller roads could take a couple of days.

Vehicles parked or abandoned on any snow emergency route, or considered to be road hazards, will be removed at the owners expense. Cars that are in the lane of traffic on any road, and deemed a hazard, or a barrier to snow removal, may also be towed.

Metro is extending free overnight parking at its garages until Tuesday. Parking gates will remain open through 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and parking fees will go back in effect after that.

Emergency personnel are reassured that there were relatively few power outages. As of early Sunday, there were 416 outages in northern Virginia, 238 outages in Maryland and 103 outages in D.C.

But the storm wrought other damage. It's possible that heavy snow led to the collapse of a roof at an apartment building in Manassas, Virginia.

In Frederick County, Maryland, some places saw an astonishing 38 inches of snow, the National Weather Service reported. Jones Springs, West Virginia, had 39 inches.

But places closer to the metro area saw feet of snow as well: More than 36 inches of snow fell in north Potomac, Maryland. More than 29 inches fell in Centreville in Fairfax County, Virginia 

And more than 22 inches of snow fell at the National Zoo in northwest D.C. 

"We know that it is very rough outside, and in some cases there have been reports of white-out conditions for the past two hours. Visibility is extremely poor," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at 5 p.m. Saturday. 

In Virginia, state police received calls for 1,374 crashes and 1,883 disabled vehcles between midnight Friday and 10 p.m. Saturday across the commonwealth.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said even people with four-wheel drive vehicles were getting stuck. 

Bowser urged drivers and pedestrians to stay off the roads until they are cleared Sunday. Many people have been walking in the middle of snow-covered streets, getting in the way of plows and emergency vehicles.

"We can't emphasize enough that people need to stay off the streets for their own safety and for that of our snow crews and first responders," she said.

One person died, and his death is being attributed to the weather. A Fort Washington resident died Saturday while shoveling snow, Prince George's County fire department spokesman Mark Brady said.

Brady said the death happened moments after the department published a warning about the dangers of shoveling snow on Twitter

No other storm-related deaths have been reported in the region at this time.

In Stafford County, a baby boy was born at home after his parents' midwife wasn't able to get to their home through the snow. A 911 dispatcher talked the father-to-be through the delivery over the phone.

The heavy snow and strong winds are also affecting travel at area airports. As a result, runways at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport are expected to remain closed through Sunday.

More than 200 flights departing from Baltimore Washington International Airport have been canceled, according to Washington Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport are reporting 194 and 188 canceled flights, respectively. 

In total, airlines have now cancelled more than 10,000 flights for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, according to

A Massive, Historic Blizzard
The storm began quietly, with the first flakes arriving around noon Friday in Manassas and Gainesville, Virginia.

Storm Team4 said projected snowfall totals could put this storm firmly in the top five biggest snowfalls of all time for the region.The biggest snowfall on record is the deadly 1922 Knickerbocker blizzard, during which 28 inches fell and the weight of the snow collapsed an Adams Morgan movie theater, killing 98 people inside.

For reference, the December 2009 and February 2010 snowstorms, popularly called "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowmageddon," clocked in at 16.4 inches and 17.8 inches, respectively.

Public Transportation Shut Down
The entire Metro system is closed for the weekend, with Metrorail service ending at 11 p.m. Friday. Metrobus service shut down at 5 p.m. Friday, and MetroAccess service ended at 6 p.m. They are not expected to reopen until Monday.

County bus services are also closed. Arlington County's ART bus service and Montgomery County's Ride On system will stay closed through the weekend. In Prince George's County, TheBus service has been suspended. 

States of Emergency Declared
D.C., Maryland and Virginia leaders all declared states of emergency, and a snow emergency is also in effect in the District. A snow emergency allows transportation workers to clear snow emergency routes curb to curb. Violators face a $250 ticket, a $100 tow and a $25-per-day fee until they pick up their vehicles. By Friday afternoon, the District had already issued more than 2,700 tickets and towed 187 vehicles.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency for the commonwealth Thursday morning. The declaration authorizes state agencies to assist local governments in response to the storm. 

McAuliffe said residents should be prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages. 

"All Virginians should take the threat of this storm seriously and take necessary precautions now," McAuliffe said Thursday.

Maryland's state of emergency began at 7 a.m. Friday. The Maryland National Guard will be on standby, Gov. Larry Hogan said. A snow emergency for the entire state began at noon Friday.  

A "general emergency" has been declared for Montgomery County, where county facilities will be closed until midnight Sunday. Arlington County facilities also closed at noon and will remain closed Saturday.

To help firefighters, you should clear snow about 3 feet around your nearest fire hydrant.

Help for Those Needing Shelter
Be on the lookout for homeless people, who could get hypothermia during this cold spell. If you see someone in the D.C. area who needs shelter or warmer clothing, call the following numbers: 

  • The District: 202-399-7093 or 311 if calling within the city
  • Arlington County: 703-228-1010 (24 hours)
  • Fairfax County: 703-691-2131 (police non-emergency line)
  • Montgomery County: 311 if calling within the county
  • Prince George's County: 888-731-0999 

[NATL] Blizzard Pushes Snow, Wind Through East Coast

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