Federal government, business, schools shuttered as Mid-Atlantic digs out from massive snowfall

By Nafeesa Syeed, AP
Monday, February 8, 2010

Mid-Atlantic digs out of snow; government shut

WASHINGTON — Federal workers got a day off as the Mid-Atlantic region dug out Monday from as much as 3 feet of snow that left tens of thousands without power while making travel nearly impossible. And there’s another storm brewing.

With more snow expected Tuesday into Wednesday — as much as a foot in some places — stranded travelers and the tens of thousands struggling with no electricity wondered when they would escape the icy, gray mess.

At Washington’s Reagan National Airport, where flights had resumed after more than two days, people could count on one hand the number of planes that had actually taken off by noon. There were still more workers than travelers at airport counters, and most flights on departure screens said “canceled” or “delayed.”

Joyce McCann of Washington arrived at 6 a.m. for a flight to Houston, a stop on the way to a Hawaiian vacation.

“Now they’re saying tomorrow,” she said. But she hadn’t given up and was hoping to fly standby.

Delays and cancellations were also expected at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Dulles International Airport.

Federal agencies that employ 230,000 in Washington were closed, as were many local governments, businesses and school districts across the region.

The charming sight of cross-country skiers gliding down monument steps and people throwing snowballs had given way to images of people hunched over snow shovels or huddled next to fireplaces.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the region lost power during the storm, and utilities warned it could be days before electricity is restored to everyone.

The National Weather Service called the storm historic and reported a foot of snow in parts of Ohio and 2 feet or more in Washington, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia got closer to 3 feet.

Forecasters expect highs in the low- to mid-30s for the next few days, and sunshine Monday should help melt some of the snow before more arrives Tuesday, said weather service meteorologist Bryan Jackson.

Weather service forecaster Bruce Sullivan said the next storm is expected to begin late Tuesday afternoon and go through midday Wednesday. Hardest hit could be central and northern Maryland, northern Delaware and parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Eric Berry, a plow driver for Baltimore, said he worked 12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday, with overanxious residents sometimes hindering his ability to clear secondary roads by digging out their cars and moving them into the path of his plow.

“They feel like they need to park in the street, so that when it’s time to go, they can up and go,” Berry said.

In Philadelphia, 28.5 inches of snow fell, just shy of the record 30.7 inches during a January 1996 blizzard. Snow totals were even higher to the west in Pennsylvania, with 31 inches recorded in Upper Strasburg and 30 inches in Somerset.

Authorities say most public transportation in Philadelphia has resumed. In Pittsburgh, bus service restarted but light-rail wasn’t running. Washington’s Metro trains were to be limited Monday to underground rails, and its buses were going to operate on a very limited basis.

Despite the snow, watching the Super Bowl was still a priority for many. Eric Teoh, 29, of Arlington, said he borrowed his neighbor’s snow shovel and spent at least an hour getting his car out of the snow to head to the Crystal City Sports Pub in Arlington, Va.

“I was snowed in and I dug my car out today to come here,” he said. “I couldn’t go anywhere.”

The frigid temperatures and snowy and icy streets did not deter runner Patrick Duffy, 23, from training for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. He admitted was going slower than usual.

“I’m trying not to fall,” Duffy said, his eyelashes frosted white. “I haven’t fallen yet.”

Nuckols reported from Baltimore. Contributing to this report were Associated Press photographer Jacquelyn Martin in Silver Spring, Md.; and writers Geoff Mulvihill in Atlantic City, N.J.; Ron Todt in Philadelphia; Jessica Gresko in Washington; and Kathleen Miller in Arlington, Va.

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