Larry Frum

Storm Team4: Blizzard Begins to Ease; Some Maryland Highways Close

After 36 hours of snow, conditions ease a little in D.C. area

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The blizzard that has gripped the D.C. area began to ease late Saturday evening, as snowfall began to slow. However, temperatures are dropping and roads remain treacherous as crews struggle to keep up with the pace of the snowfall.

The storm will easily rank among the region's 10 worst, and the cleanup will take days, Storm Team4 says. We'll wake Sunday to sub-freezing temperatures, which will make for a frosty cleanup.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan closed interstates 270 and 70 so that plows can clear the roads Saturday night. Shortly before 9 p.m., Hogan said he was ordering the entire 34.7-mile length of I-270 and I-70, from I-81 to the Baltimore Beltway, to be closed until at least 7 a.m. Sunday.

"Please stay home where you are safe and give us the time and space to our jobs," said Maryland transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn in a press release.

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. "For the next few hours, we continue to be told the snow will be heavy with the highest wind gusts of the entire storm. And it continues to be a dangerous storm."

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 says even people with four-wheel drive vehicles were getting stuck. 

Bowser urged drivers and pedestrians to stay off the roads. 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 has already 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

The heavy snow and winds may tear down power lines, topple branches and force road closures and topple trees.

At one point nearly 1,600 people in Montgomery County, Maryland, were without power, according to Pepco, but power has been restored to all of them. No other major power outages have been reported in the the D.C. area.

The blizzard warning will expire for our area Sunday at 6 a.m. However, even after the snow stops falling, it will take awhile for the region to dig out.

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 

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