Snow Piles Up, Paralyzing Nation's Capital | NECN

Snow Piles Up, Paralyzing Nation's Capital

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    NEWSLETTERS

    WASHINGTON (AP) - A blizzard battered the Mid-Atlantic region
    Saturday, with emergency crews struggling to keep pace with the
    heavy, wet snow that has piled up on roadways, toppled trees and
    left thousands without electricity.
          Officials urged people to huddle at home and out of the way of
    emergency crews. Forecasters said the storm could be the biggest
    for the nation's capital in modern history.


          A record 2 feet or more was predicted for Washington. As of
    early Saturday, 10 inches of snow was reported at the White House,
    while parts of Maryland and West Virginia were buried under more
    than 20 inches. Forecasters expected snowfall rates to increase, up
    to 2 inches per hour through Saturday morning.
          Blizzard warnings were issued for the District of Columbia,
    Baltimore, parts of New Jersey and Delaware, and some areas west of
    the Chesapeake Bay.
          "Things are fairly manageable, but trees are starting to come
    down," said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer, whose
    agency responded to some of the falling trees. No injuries were
    reported.
          Airlines canceled flights, churches called off weekend services
    and people wondered if they would be stuck at home for several days
    in a region ill-equipped to deal with so much snow.
          "D.C. traditionally panics when it comes to snow. This time, it
    may be more justifiable than most times," said Becky Shipp, who
    was power-walking in Arlington, Va., Friday. "I am trying to get a
    walk in before I am stuck with just the exercise machine in my
    condo."
          The region's second snowstorm in less than two months brought
    heavy, wet snow and strong winds that forecasters warned could gust
    near 60 mph in some areas along the coast.
          Hundreds of thousands of customers across the region had lost
    electricity and more outages were expected to be reported because
    of all the downed power lines. A hospital fire in D.C. sent about
    three dozen patients scurrying from their rooms to safety in a
    basement. The blaze started when a snow plow truck caught fire near
    the building.
          Authorities blamed the storm for hundreds of accidents,
    including a deadly tractor-trailer wreck that killed a father and
    son who had stopped to help someone in Virginia. Some area
    hospitals asked people with four-wheel-drive vehicles to volunteer
    to pick up doctors and nurses to take them to work.
          The country band Rascal Flatts postponed a concert Saturday in
    Ohio, but the Atlanta Thrashers-Washington Capitals NHL game went
    on as planned.
          In Dover, Del., Shanita Foster lugged three gallons of water out
    of a Dollar General store.
          "That's all we need right now. We've got everything else,"
    said Foster, adding that she was ready with candles in case the
    power went out.
          Shoppers jammed aisles and emptied stores of milk, bread,
    shovels, driveway salt and other supplies. Many scrambling for food
    and supplies were too late.
          "Our shelves are bare," said Food Lion front-end manager
    Darlene Baboo in Dover. "This is just unreal."
          Metro, the transit system the Washington area is heavily
    dependent upon, closed all but the underground rail service and
    suspended bus service.
          Maryland's public transportation also shut down Saturday,
    including Baltimore's Metro. Maryland Transit Administration
    spokeswoman Jawauna Greene said the underground portion of the
    Metro could reopen later Saturday but it depended on the weather
    conditions.
          "We have trees on the overhead wires, trees on train tracks. We
    can't get anything out," she said.
          Amtrak also canceled several of its Northeast Corridor trains
    Saturday, and New Jersey's transit authority expected to suspend
    bus service. As much as a foot of snow was reported in parts of
    that state.
          Across the region, transportation officials deployed thousands
    of trucks and crews and had hundreds of thousands of tons of salt
    at the ready. Several states exhausted or expected to exhaust their
    snow removal budgets.
          Maryland budgeted about $60 million, and had already spent about
    $50 million, Gov. Martin O'Malley said. Virginia Gov. Bob
    McDonnell, who has been in office less than a month, declared his
    second snow emergency, authorizing state agencies to assist local
    governments. As of early Saturday, some parts of Virginia had
    already seen more than 18 inches of snow.
          The snow comes less than two months after a Dec. 19 storm dumped
    more than 16 inches on Washington. Snowfalls of this magnitude -
    let alone two in one season - are rare in the area. According to
    the National Weather Service, Washington has gotten more than a
    foot of snow only 13 times since 1870.
          The heaviest on record was 28 inches in January 1922. The
    biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to
    have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much
    as 3 feet fell, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson penned
    in their diaries.
          In Washington, tourists made the best of it Friday, spending
    their days in museums or venturing out to see the monuments before
    the snow got too heavy.
          A group of 13 high school students from Cincinnati was stranded
    in D.C. when a student government conference they planned to attend
    was canceled - after they had already arrived. So they went
    sightseeing.
          At the Smithsonian's natural history museum, Caitlin Lavon, 18,
    and Hannah Koch, 17, took pictures of each other with the jaws of a
    great white shark in the Ocean Hall.
          "Our parents are all freaking out, sending texts to be
    careful," Koch said. "Being from Ohio, I don't think I've ever
    seen that much snow at once."
          ---
          Associated Press writers Brett Zongker and Sarah Karush in
    Washington, Kathleen Miller in Falls Church, Va., David Dishneau in
    Chantilly, Va., Ben Nuckols in Hanover, Md., Randall Chase in
    Dover, Del., and Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Va., contributed to
    this report.
          
          (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)