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School Closings Rolling In As D.C. Region Digs Out From Snowzilla

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Snowfall totals in the D.C. region ranged from 10 inches all the way up to nearly 3 feet. Kids at Hearst Elementary School have been taking advantage.
Matt McCleskey/WAMU
Snowfall totals in the D.C. region ranged from 10 inches all the way up to nearly 3 feet. Kids at Hearst Elementary School have been taking advantage.

A massive snowstorm, colloquially known as "Snowzilla ," that affected most of the East Coast finally ended Sunday morning, leaving in its wake 1-3 feet of snow over major cities, at least 18 storm-associated casualties and severe coastal flooding. The WAMU news team will be providing updates from around the region today, so watch this space and follow us on Twitter at @WAMU885News.

6:20 p.m.:

Workers of the region, rejoice! The federal government will close on Monday, joining just about every local government in the region in opting not to make workers come to the office so soon after the end of the historic blizzard that only recently departed the area. All the details are here.

4:40 p.m.

Schools across the region have cancelled classes for Monday, and Fairfax County has even cancelled classes for Tuesday. That's because the sidewalks around the schools have not been cleared, and school buses are buried under several feet of snow. After arriving from a helicopter trip around the state, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, explained it will probably be a while before the Fairfax County school system will be ready to open its doors.

"When we landed here, just as we were coming down here I guess is the depot for the school buses," says McAuliffe. "They are all under two or three feet of snow."

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova says neither the state nor the county has the resources to clear sidewalks.

"And so we appeal to neighbors and businesses, but also to schools, to PTAs, to make sure that they are really making a concerted effort — a volunteer effort — to clear the sidewalks around schools," says Bulova.

When will classes start again in Virginia's largest school system? Bulova says that depends on what residents across the county do in the coming days.

3:40 p.m.

Metro has announced their plans for Monday, including the restoration of "limited underground service" on sections of the Red, Orange and Green Lines. Trains will be running every 20-25 minutes and, per Metro, fares will not be charged.

Metrobus will be operating with limited service to just 22 "lifeline" routes:

  • District of Columbia: 32, 33, 36, 53, 70, 90, A6, A8, P12, S4, U8, X2
  • Maryland: C4, D12, K6, Q2, V4, Y2, Z8
  • Virginia: 16A, 16E, 28A

In addition, MetroAccess has been suspended for Monday.

3:30 p.m.

The roads are slowly being cleared, and residents throughout the region are dutifully shoveling their own sidewalks. But in D.C. there are also miles worth of alleys, and those may not see any snow-removal efforts at all.

In a conference call today with Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, City Administrator Rashad Young was asked if D.C. has any plans to clear snow from alleys. "D.C. does not 'historically' plow in alleys," he said, according to one person who was on the call and took notes.

That will pose a challenge for trash pickup, since most residents have their trash picked up in the alleys behind their homes. "Trash collection operations will be difficult," said Young during the call.

While the D.C. Department of Public Works wasn't immediately available to comment on when track pickups will resume, Young said Mayor Muriel Bowser will provide an update on the issue at her 5 p.m. press conference.

1:30 p.m.

Here are the latest updates from around the region, courtesy of AP:

Maryland

Despite the high winds and tremendous volume of snowfall there was only one reported death in Baltimore, and officials aren't even sure it's snow-related, said Bob Maloney, Baltimore Director of the Office of Emergency Management. A travel ban in the city and along a 34.7-mile stretch of interstates has been lifted, but officials still urged residents to not venture out onto the roads if not necessary. Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ed McDonough said I-270 and I-70 from I-81 in Washington County to the Baltimore Beltway had reopened as of 7 a.m. Sunday.

In western Maryland, meanwhile, a barn roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow Saturday morning in the unincorporated community of Ijamsville, killing some of the several dozen beef cattle that had been herded inside to ride out the storm, said cattle owner Douglas Fink. Fink said he wasn't sure how many had died. He said most of the cattle escaped before the collapse, but he hasn't been able to count them because they're huddling close together.

Virginia

Firefighters evacuated tenants from 24 apartments in two northern Virginia apartment buildings after one partially collapsed and the other showed signs of weakening early Sunday, Prince William County officials said. They said the cause of the collapse appeared to be snowfall of approximately 28 inches during the past 36 hours in Manassas. No residents were hurt. One firefighter suffered a cut to the face, and about 65 people were displaced. The county says arrangements are being made to shelter them. A man was killed on Saturday in a single-vehicle crash in Virginia Beach that police blamed on speed and icy road conditions, and Virginia Tech filmmaker Jerry Scheeler died Friday while shoveling snow outside his new house in Daleville, local news media reported Sunday. On Saturday, the state medical examiner's office confirmed three other storm deaths. Snow, ice and gusting winds made the roof collapse at a Donk's Theater, a historic venue near the Chesapeake Bay, building officials said. The theater opened in 1947 and was known as Home of Virginia's Lil' Ole Opry.

Washington D.C.

Transportation crews in the nation's capital were hoping to make major roads passable Sunday and also to tackle secondary roads, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said. Bowser said the city's public schools, attended by nearly 49,000 students, would be closed Monday. She said officials were still assessing whether city government offices would open. Mass transit in the nation's capital was still shut down; officials expected to have an update by Sunday afternoon. The federal government closed its offices at noon Friday, and it wasn't immediately clear what the plans were for Monday. President Barack Obama, hunkered down at the White House, was one of many who stayed home. But a video of one of the Smithsonian National Zoo's four pandas enjoying the snow there was a bright spot amid the storm clouds, drawing 45 million views on Facebook as of Sunday.

11:30 a.m.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says D.C. Public Schools will be closed tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 25. As work continues to clean up the city, officials are still assessing whether city government will be open tomorrow either.

Fairfax County Public Schools also announced they will be closed tomorrow — though they will be closed through Tuesday as well.

We advise you to keep tabs on your school system's website for updates throughout today, as more closures are expected.

Meanwhile, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says they plan to be "more aggressive" about asking people to stay home today in order to give work crews a chance to do their jobs. She said police will issue tickets for cars that are obstructing cleanup efforts.

10:15 a.m.

The snow has stopped, the sun is out, and now it's time to start shoveling. But for seniors and those with disabilities, that may be difficult, and as we reported earlier, several deaths from the storm have been attributed to overexertion. A new D.C. program aims to solve that problem by pairing volunteer shovelers with those who need help.

"This is the first year that we have coordinated anything of this magnitude," says Delano Hunter with Serve DC — the mayor's office on volunteerism. "The D.C. resident snow team is comprised of 2,500 volunteers that said, 'Hey, in the event of a snow storm, I am willing to shovel snow for seniors and those with disabilities.'"

Hunter says service requests spiked last week in the run up to the storm. He had about 4,500 requests for help — nearly twice the number of volunteers. Requests and volunteers are coming from across the city. And more volunteers are still needed.

If you'd like to help shovel snow for someone today, here's what you can do:

"The quickest and most efficient way is to log on at www.snowteam.dc.gov and that will automatically populate them into our system. And what we're able to do is to match them with service requesters within one-eighth of a mile from where they live," Hunter says.

9:30 a.m.

As beautiful as this storm has been, it's also brought tragedy up and down the East Coast, as NPR reports.

At least 18 deaths have been attributed to the storm, including a Kentucky transportation worker who died while plowing highways, a teenager who was hit by a truck while sledding behind an all-terrain vehicle and two people who died of hypothermia in Virginia.

Most of the deaths were from car crashes on snowy or icy roads. Four were caused by overexertion while shoveling snow.

If you or someone you know is shoveling snow on Sunday, the National Safety Council has some tips on how to do so safely, including taken it slow and pushing, not lifting, the snow. Moving snow is serious physical exertion and people who don't do it frequently — no matter how healthy — can easily overexert themselves.

"A clear driveway is not worth your life," the National Safety Council notes.

Meanwhile in Maryland, some travel restrictions are being lifted. Maryland officials have reopened a long stretch of interstates that had been closed overnight to allow emergency workers to clear the snow, according to the Associated Press.

Maryland Department of Emergency spokesman Ed McDonough said the 34.7-mile length of I-270 and I-70 from I-81 in Washington County to the Baltimore Beltway was reopened as of 7 a.m. Sunday. Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the roadways closed after several accidents involving tractor-trailers and other vehicles.

Baltimore officials also have lifted an emergency travel ban for the snow-smothered city, but some restrictions remain in place.

The National Weather Service said on its Weather Prediction Center website early Sunday that more than a foot of snow had fallen in Baltimore 16 inches to be exact.

8:45 a.m.

Plows will be hitting the roads hard today, trying to clear away the two feet of snow and return the region to some semblance of normalcy. That may take a while, possibly into early next week.

But when it comes to sidewalks, it's residents that are responsible for snow-clearing operations.

In D.C., residents have eight daylight hours — basically today — to clear snow off of any sidewalks in front of or adjacent to their property. (And if you're proud of the job you do, there's even a hashtag to share pictures on Twitter.) D.C. specifies that 36 inches worth of sidewalk need to be cleared.

In Arlington County, the government has given residents until noon tomorrow to clear snow and ice. Fairfax County says no legal obligation exists for residents to clear sidewalks, though they encourage it — "as soon as feasible."

In Montgomery County, residents have 24 hours to get the job done. In Prince George's County, it's 12 hours.

Officials from the region's jurisdictions are also asking that residents kick in a little extra shoveling work to help elderly and disabled neighbors.

8:15 a.m.

Snow crews are busy trying to get the region cleared of snow Sunday morning, but D.C. city officials warn, they’re not sure when things will get back to normal.

The head of D.C.’s Emergency Management Agency Chris Geldart says city officials are starting with what he calls the “post storm response.” They’ll assess streets and figure out how long it will take to clear snow.

"We will start to do some of the picking up of the snow and hauling of the snow," he says.

Geldart says they have asked other states for equipment to help clear the snow. Residents have been urged to shovel in front of their homes and to volunteer to help their neighbors.

Sometimes residents who have spent hours shoveling snow around their cars “save the space” by placing a chair in the spot. Police Chief Cathy Lanier reminds people “no one owns their parking space."

"So when people try to save their space, that’s when we see tensions between neighbors. No one does have the legal right to save their own space along public streets," she says. "So keep that in mind, as tempting as it is, when you pull out, that space can be taken by someone else."

There has been no decision made as yet on whether schools will open D.C. public schools will open tomorrow. You can find a link to your school district on this closings page.

The picture from Baltimore

Baltimore officials have lifted an emergency travel ban for the snow-smothered city, but some restrictions remain in place, according to the Associated Press.

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation said in a news release that the so-called Phase III ban was lifted at 6 a.m. Sunday. The ban had prohibited all travel in the city except for emergency vehicles. Officials urged residents who didn't need to go out to still stay off the roads.

The Phase II plan remains in effect, meaning all vehicles venturing out on city roads must have all-weather tires. In addition, officials said parking will still be restricted along snow emergency routes.''

The city is continuing to offer free parking for residents in city garages on a first-come, first-served basis.

The National Weather Service said on its Weather Prediction Center website early Sunday that more than a foot of snow had fallen in Baltimore — 16 inches to be exact.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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