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More Snow Expected To Accumulate Overnight; Many Schools Closed Friday

Drivers who didn't heed the warnings to avoid the roads inevitably got stuck around the D.C. region.
Seth Liss/WAMU
Drivers who didn't heed the warnings to avoid the roads inevitably got stuck around the D.C. region.

Winter Storm Resources

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Residents around the region are bracing for round two of the winter storm to hit Thursday night.

The National Weather Service says snow and sleet wil continue tonight, switching over to snow after 1 a.m. Nighttime accumulation could amount to between 1 and 3 inches. The clouds will part during the day on Friday, but snow showers will return Friday night, likely after midnight.

School closings are already pouring in for Friday. Schools in Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery, and Prince William Counties are closed tomorrow, along with many more. Check out the full list as part of WAMU 88.5's partnership with NBCWashington.

More than three-quarters of flights out of Dulles International, Reagan National and BWI were cancelled today. It's too early to say if cancellations will continue at the same clip Friday, but already 44 flights out of Reagan National and 20 out of Dulles have been cancelled for tomorrow. Those planning to fly are urged to check with their airline before heading to the airport.

Snow emergency lifted in the District

Across D.C., the  storm wreaked havok for motorists, as cars became stuck as the snow piled up. The winter weather also had a big impact on Metro. The rail system saw about one-eighth its normal ridership for a Thursday. The bus system is now operating on a limited schedule for the major arteries, so riders are urged to check the schedules online.

The city also implemented the snow emergency for the first time since 2010 — it's essentially a parking ban along main thorougfares. The snow emergency has since been lifted.

According to the city, as many as 200 vehicles were impounded. Hundreds of others were ticketed for parking in snow emergency lanes.

Overall, Mayor Gray says the city's streets are in good shape considering the amount of snow the city received.

"Virtually all of the main thoroughfares are clear at this stage. We've got some of the secondary streets cleared, we're continuing to work on them," Gray says.

So far the city has not seen massive power outages — currently about 500 customers are without power in Columbia Heights, according to the PEPCO outage map.

Snow emergency continues in Maryland

In Maryland, Montgomery County has just extended its snow emergency into tomorrow. This means vehicles cannot be parked on snow emergency routes or they will be ticketed and towed. 

On Bradley Blvd on the border of Bethesda and Chevy Chase, Matt Bush reports that many cars are still parked illegally, as their owners are spending a long day shoveling out from a mountain of snow that encircles their vehicles created by passing snow plows. 

There is, however, a way to avoid parking outside.  The county is allowing free parking in all county garages today, though there is no word yet that the county will extend that to tomorrow. 

RideOn buses are running on an extremely low level of service this evening — they're only operating routes that go to hospitals, and they'll stop running at 10 p.m.  The goal, according to county authorities, is to keep roads as clear as possible so snow plows and removal crews can continue to do their work, which includes 600 pieces of equipment, the most the county has ever used to respond to a storm in its history.

The rest of Thursday's live blog continues below.

Update, 4:00 p.m.: The storm has caused more than 4,000 flights to be cancelled and some travelers are learning they may not be able to get out of town until Sunday.

Kelly Hillman, a nurse from Monroe, La., has missed two days of work trying to get home since Tuesday. She explains to WAMU 88.5's Martin Di Caro.

"Well, Tuesday our flight got cancelled to Monroe because of an ice storm," she says. "Then we had a flight on Wednesday going into Jackson that got cancelled due to an ice storm in Jackson, Miss. Then today we had a flight going to Dallas and then to Monroe that just got canceled out of here."

It's not just them either, the cancellation for today in all the region's airports is extremely high — 85 percent at Reagan National, 70 percent at Dulles International, and 83 percent at BWI. Unfortunately for the Hillmans, the next available flight to Monroe is on Sunday.

"So we're getting a rental car to drive," Hillman says. "My husband says 20 hours, but I'm hoping it's closer to 18."

Hillman's husband looked upset, and declined to comment.

Update, 3:20 p.m.: The Virginia Department of Transportation says drivers should stay off the roads and conditions continue to change, especially with the second blast of weather expected for the region.

VDOT says Northern Virginia was pretty hard hit and responding to the snow will be a multi-day effort.

Jenni McCord is a spokesperson for VDOT and says even roads that look clear may be dangerous.

"As we continue to get this sleet and this freezing rain, the big concern is it's going to refreeze overnight," McCord says. "I think the important thing is even if you're driving and it looks clear to be really careful."

McCord says the agency is urging drives to stay off the road if possible. She says bridges and ramps are particularly hazardous and warns roads are likely to be icy in the morning.

Looking towards Friday, some school systems, including Prince William County in Virginia and Montgomery County in Maryland have already declared a snow day for tomorrow.

Update, 2:30 p.m.: The snow emergency remains in effect in the District, in contrast to our earlier report. Limited Metrobus service has, however, been restored on major arterial roadways in the area as of 2 p.m.

We're not out of the woods yet, though. Maryland Emergency Management Agency Director Ken Mallette says there has been a lull in the snowfall Thursday, but he expects temperatures to drop, winds to pick up and another two inches of snow in some areas. He says there is a potential for refreezing.

The state saw higher snow amounts along the border with Pennsylvania and in Allegany, Frederick, Carroll and Baltimore counties. Mallette says people have heeded warnings to stay off roads so far, but they should give plow crews time to clear the roads.

Mallette says decisions about closings for Friday will be made later in the day, once officials have more clarity on what the next day will bring.

Update, 1:30 p.m.: Tow trucks are working to remove a tractor-trailer that ran off a ramp near the Wilson Bridge.

The Maryland State Highway Administration says the truck was carrying produce when it left the road around 7:30 a.m. Thursday in Prince George's County. It slid down a hill from a ramp carrying a portion of interstates 95 and 495 over 295. Crews with heavy-duty tow trucks have moved part of the truck back on the road, but are working to remove it. The truck driver was hurt in the accident.

Many vehicles are sliding off roads, but police say there are no serious injuries. In western Maryland, Maryland State Police say westbound Interstate 70 is opened near Clear Spring after a crash involving three tractor-trailers. No one was hurt.

Crews are making some progress in clearing area airports for takeoffs and departures. The Twitter account for Dulles International sent out a video of large-scale plowing operations on their aircraft taxilane, which was opened shortly thereafter.

The forecast from the National Weather Service calls for snow, freezing rain and sleet to take back over after 3 p.m., though little no accumulation is expected. Snow will be back in the works tonight, with 1 to 3 inches possible.

Update, 12:30 p.m.: The winter weather appears to be loosening its grip on the region a bit. D.C. will lift its snow emergency status at 2 p.m., meaning drivers will once again be allowed to park in spaces marked snow emergency routes.

Officials told Patrick Madden that hundreds of tickets were issued and many vehicles were impounded, as the District enforced the snow emergency.

Some Metrobus service will also be restored at 2 p.m., but only on the main arterial roadways. The following routes will have limited service restored as of 2 p.m.: 

  • District of Columbia: 32, 36, 52, 54, 70, 90, 92, A6/A8, S2, X2  
  • Maryland: 81, A12, C4, C21, D12, F4, J2, K6, P12, Q1, T18, Y9, Z8  
  • Virginia: 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 7A, 9A, 10B, 16A, 22A/25A, 23A, 28A, 29N and shuttle service between Pentagon & Rosslyn stations

Even with limited service restored, Metrobus riders should expect delays to continue. Metrobus will continue on limited service until 1 a.m. or the connections with the last Metrorail trains.

Update, 11:45 a.m.: Accumulation has reached 18 inches in parts of the Mid-Atlantic region, but it's causing some power outages as the precipitation changes to an icy mix in some areas.

Delmarva Power reported about 2,700 outages by 10:30 a.m. Thursday, mostly in Cecil County, Md., and New Castle County, Del. That's down from about 4,200 earlier in the day.

Dominion power in Virginia reports 1,300 outages now — mostly in the Richmond area — down from more than than 4,000 earlier this morning.

Utilities in Washington, Baltimore and other parts of the region report few outages.

Forecasts called for a heavy, wet snow and gusty winds, raising the possibility of widespread power outages. But Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Angela Bernstein says the early morning snow was fluffier than expected.

She says the area is not out of the woods yet, as precipitation continues to fall and the potential for power outages remains.

Fluffy snow also did little for area airports. Runways at Dulles International and Reagan National are still closed, and both airports have cancellation rates well above 70 percent, according to FlightAware.com.

Update, 10:15 a.m.: WAMU's Matt McCleskey is not the only skier in town today. Armando Trull caught up with Eric Larsson, who also strapped on the skis and hit the road today.

"I’m working from home today, and just wanted to get outside and get a little exercise in before it rains," Larsson says.

The precipitation has switched over from rain to snow, but that didn't dissuade Larsson.

"It’s a little wet and I’m actually looking to go into Rock Creek Park and see how that is, but you have to deal with what you get," he said.

Forecasts call for the precipitation to turn back to snow around 4 p.m. as the temperatures drop, but for now — skis or not — it's a mess outside.

Update, 10:00 a.m.: A Virginia Department of Transportation contract truck driver working to clear snowy roads has died after he was struck by another VDOT truck, according to the Associated Press.

Virginia State Police say the crash occurred just before 6 a.m. Thursday at Belmont Ridge Road in Ashburn.

Police say the driver pulled off the road and was standing behind his truck when he was hit by another dump truck. The contract worker was taken to the hospital, where he died. The other driver was not injured.

Police say the crash is under investigation, and they have not yet identified the driver who was killed.

Update, 9:00 a.m.: A winter storm that dumped up to a foot and a half of snow on the Mid-Atlantic region is not causing major power outages yet. Utilities in the Washington area, Maryland and Delaware report minimal outages Thursday morning.

The forecasts called for a heavy, wet snow and gusty winds, which raised concerns about the prospect of widespread power outages.

However, Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Angela Bernstein said reports from people digging out are that the snow itself is lighter than anticipated. She says the state has not seen big wind gusts yet, but could later in the day.

She cautioned that the area is not out of the woods yet, as snow continues to fall and the potential for power outages remains.

Update, 7:45 a.m.: In Virginia, people are out and about trying to deal with the snow. Crews are out on the roads and sidewalks trying to clear the way for cars and pedestrians  in Alexandria, which received about 6 inches of snow.

Nab Contrerra started clearing snow in front of St. Mary's Catholic Church around 5 a.m. this morning.

"Shoveling is a little more hard. This one is a little more easy," Contrerra says. "Comfortable inside, warm, coffee. Trying to take it easy. It's better than being outside."

Several store are open, though, staffed by employees that sleep in backrooms and hotels. Virginia customers are protected by a 2004 anti-gouging law, which prohibits retailers from charging unconscionable prices for water, ice, food, generators. That doesn't apply to Red Bull, which is what Don Fisher is picking up from the CVS on King Street.

Here's his plan for enduring the snow: "Tobacco and caffeine."

Most people seem to have power here, but Dominion is reporting about 10,000 customers without power — mostly in Richmond and southside Virginia.

Update, 7:30 a.m.: Transportation officials throughout the region are urging motorists to stay off the roads while crews plow. Wind restrictions are in effect on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Virginia State Police are attributing one death to a winter storm that left many roads treacherous and troopers busy responding to more than 1,000 crashes and disabled vehicles statewide.

The death occurred in Halifax County on Wednesday as the storm swept into Southside Virginia. State police investigators say the 55-year-old male victim was killed on Route 501 when his car was hit head-on by another vehicle. The victim's wife was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Through early Thursday, state police emergency dispatch centers fielded 2,249 calls for service. Troopers responded to 841 traffic crashes and assisted 515 disabled vehicles.

The majority of the crashes involved vehicle damage and no injuries.

State police are advising motorists to stay off the roads, many of which remain covered in snow or slush.

Update, 6:30 a.m.: For those hoping to fly out of the District on Thursday, you're probably not in luck. As many as 69 percent of flights out of Reagan National and 55 percent out of Dulles are already cancelled through the early afternoon, according to Flightaware.com. All runways are closed at this time at Reagan National, meaning no flights can takeoff or land for the time being. Two runways are still open at Dulles.

The heaviest snow of the day is happening now, with as much as 1-2 inches of snow and sleet an hour.

Update, 6:00 a.m.: With the federal and District governments closed, along with schools, residents are urged to stay home if possible today. Snow crews are out in force trying to clean up the roads, but conditions are dangerous.

Metrobus, VRE, and MARC services are all suspended for the time being, but Metrorail is still on the move.

At a Safeway in Old Town Alexandria, two employees stayed overnight to make sure the store was able to open this morning. Carmelita Justice was able to find a ride to work before the store opened at 5 a.m.

"I don't mind," Justice says. "We get paid extra for overtime. So hey, if you're paying, I'm staying."

The Virginia Department of Transportation says about 2,500 workers are out plowing the roads with about 12,000 plows, but the roads in Old Town are in very bad condition. Tremayne Bailey is greeting customers at the front door.

"The snow? It's no big deal. I drove in Snowmaggedon," Bailey says.

Even so, officials are warning motorists to stay off the roads.

5:00 a.m.: The D.C. region is waking up to a winter smorgasbord, with more a foot of snow in the southern and southwest areas of Virginia turning into a sloppy mix as the morning progresses.

Snow continues to fall early Thursday morning, with depths ranging from a half foot in Fredericksburg, Va., to 10 inches in Winchester. The heaviest snowfall totals were reported in Blacksburg, with more than a foot, as well as some other southwest locations.

Washington and Baltimore are forecast to get up to 8 inches and Delaware could get 10. Those would be the highest snowfall numbers since February 2010. Some of the heaviest snow is forecast for Maryland's Frederick and Carroll counties, which could get up to 14 inches.

The heavy snowfall has prompted the Office of Personnel Management to close the federal government Thursday. Schools throughout the area, including D.C., Prince George's and Montgomery Counties, and those in Northern Virginia are closed as well. The full list continues to be updated.

Metrorail will continue to operate as normal for the time being, but Metrobus and MetroAccess have both been suspended.

The National Weather Service says snow is expected to continue to come down in the hours before 9 a.m., with rain and sleet taking over the middle of the day, and then returning to snow after 4pm. The snow could be heavy at times with highs just above freezing. Winds are also poised to make the day unpleasant, with a north wind 16 to 20 mph and gusts as high as 32 mph.

Already in the early morning hours Thursday, Virginia State Police have reported nearly 900 calls for service and troopers responded to 342 vehicle crashes. State police reported one weather-related fatality, in Halifax County.

Dominion Virginia Power is reporting more than 8,000 power outages, mostly in Southern Virginia.

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