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Schools Close For Winter Storm Thursday

Snow plows clear downtown lanes on Interstate 75/85 during a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Atlanta. Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come.
(AP Photo/David Tulis)
Snow plows clear downtown lanes on Interstate 75/85 during a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Atlanta. Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come.

A storm sweeping over the D.C. region Wednesday night has prompted the D.C. government to declare a snow emergency.

Winter storm warnings went into effect Wednesday night in most of the region. The National Weather Service warns that snow may be heavy overnight and may mix with sleet in some places Thursday.

Forecasters say Washington could see a total of 4 to 8 inches, Baltimore could get 6 to 10 inches and northern Delaware could get up 8 to 10 inches. To the west, Maryland's Frederick and Washington counties could see 10 to 14 inches. Some residents there endured four days without power after last week's ice storm.

Governors in both Virginia and Maryland already declared states of emergency in advance of the storm.

During a snow emergency, parking in snow emergency routes carries a $250 fine. The last time the city declared a snow emergency was in 2010.

D.C. Public Schools are closed, as are many other area school systems, including Montgomery, Prince George's and Fairfax Counties. Check the whole list with our partners at NBCWashington.

Transportation will take a hit

Snow crews pre-treated roads in the D.C. area ahead of the storm. More than 280 snow plows operated by the District Snow Team are on the roads as of 9 p.m. Even with the plows, road conditions are expected to be poor, so drivers are urged to stay at home if at all possible.

Roadside assistance is likely only going to be available for those in hazardous situations. AAA spokeswoman Martha M. Meade says the auto club rarely limits calls but this storm is shaping up to be especially challenging. In January, the Triple A Mid-Atlantic's emergency roadside assistance topped 222,000 calls — the highest monthly volume on record.

Public transportation will also be affected. Metro General Manager expects rail service to open on a normal schedule tomorrow morning. But service at outdoor stations might be suspended at some point, depending on how much snow falls.

"It's not a hard and fast rule but the general guideline is when the snow gets above eight inches on our right of way, it begins to interfere with our current traveling from the third rail to our trains," Sarles said. "We would try to give passengers enough notice so they could get home or wherever they have to in that time frame."

The coming storm is already affecting other Metro services. Metrobus late-night service will be cancelled after 1 a.m. But scheduled trips that connect with the last trains of the night are expected to operate. MetroAccess will be suspended tomorrow.

"It's very difficult for the customers using Metro Access to get out in bad weather," Sarles said.

Sarles cautions additional changes are possible depending how nasty the weather gets, and he suggests commuters sign up for Metro Alerts to have changes emailed or texted to them.

Amtrak is suspending several routes already, including trains between New York and destinations in the South and the auto train between Northern Virginia and Orlando, Fla. The full list of suspended service can be found at Amtrak.com.

Snow is mostly affecting airports to the south of the D.C. region — 69 percent of flights out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport have been cancelled as well as 52 percent of those out of Charlotte/Douglas International according to FlightAware.com. As of Wednesday afternoon, however, 59 percent of flights of Reagan National and 49 percent out of Dulles have already been cancelled.

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