Update, 5:00 p.m.: WMATA has announced that Metro service will be suspended through Tuesday morning, pending an assessment of the infrastructure. MetroAccess has been suspended all day Tuesday.
Original Story: Washington's D.C.'s Metrorail and bus system is closed today. The last time the entire Metro system closed down was in 2003 for Hurricane Isabel.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel says he knows many people don't have alternative means of transportation, and says officials had to weigh that against public safety. He says buses are large and difficult to maneuver in bad weather.
"Imagine how difficult it is to navigate around branches in the ground and trees in the road and downed power lines, if you're in your car of a normal size," says Stessel. "Try doing that in a 30, 40 or 60 foot bus."
Stessel says three factors went into their decision to close: one, the National Weather Service's upgraded forecast, two, the federal government — which accounts for a third of their riders — being closed, and three, power companies weren't sure they could maintain electricity.
"If we were to lose power, then we've got a situation where a train or multiple trains might need to be evacuate, and that would tie up emergency vehicles, which have many other things on their plate," says Stessel.
Approximately 720,000 people ride the Metrorail every day, and another 420,000 use the buses, so shutting down the system will be expensive for them.
Stessel says every day that Metrorail and buses don't run costs the system approximately $2 million in lost revenue. He says the agency does have contingency funds available in its current budget for such situations, but Metro is hoping the federal government will pick up the tab.
"This may qualify for disaster funds from the federal government, and we'll be pursuing those options," he says.
Stessel says after the last storm, dozens of buses were operating on detour routes for days and Metro anticipates that happening this time around as well. Officials will make a decision sometime this evening on whether to reopen Metro tomorrow.