Nation's capital declares emergency, stocks up

Government closes early, stores mobbed and Dupont Circle plans snowball fight

February 06, 2010|By Ashley Halsey III | The Washington Post

After hearing hype that rivaled the Super Bowl, after sweeping the supermarkets clean and stockpiling enough food for a winter's hibernation, the Washington region braced Friday for a storm that was expected to leave at least 20 inches of snow on the ground by late Saturday.

The District of Columbia declared a snow emergency, ticketing cars parked on emergency routes and changing traffic signals to handle an early evening rush hour.

The school systems that bothered to open at all - in the District and the Maryland counties of Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's and Anne Arundel - sent everyone home early.

Officials everywhere urged people to hunker down at home and stay off the roads.

"We are going to be right up against the most snow this city has ever seen," said Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat.

"It's not safe for anyone to be out on the roads or sidewalks at that point," said Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation.

The record was set with a 28-inch snowfall in January 1922. The big snowfall that began Dec. 19 ranked seventh, with 16.4 the official inch count.

As if to turn a lemon into lemonade, people in the Dupont Circle area decided to invite people to convene at 2 p.m. today for a "totally pointless" snowball fight.

As she prepared for a long winter's night and a longer winter weekend, one woman at a Rite Aid drugstore in Bethesda marveled, "I can't believe how much advance notice we got of this storm."

Unlike the storm last weekend, which sneaked up and delivered a wallop, this time there was plenty of warning that a big one was on the way.

At Schneider's Liquor on Capitol Hill, one owner held the door for continuously entering and exiting customers while the other directed drivers in the small parking lot.

With four people working the registers, the line still wrapped down one aisle and curved into the next. Jon Genderson, co-owner, said the crowding started Thursday, and the store has been packed since opening at 10 a.m. Friday.

Marc Ono headed to Schneider's after it was announced that federal employees were to be released early from work and he received an e-mail from the liquor store, alerting customers that it would be closed today.

"For everyone there's the fear of uncertainty, so we buy what we need to last several days," he said. "Simply got myself some liquid bread and liquid fruit today."

The region's biggest employer - the federal government - said workers could take unscheduled leave Friday.

Federal employees who went to work were allowed to leave four hours early. Most local governments also offered leave or early closures. For the first time in 40 years, the Virginia Legislature canceled all meetings during its annual session. The World Bank declared Friday a snow holiday "in the interest of staff safety."

Metro anticipated that snow and ice would impede bus service and was prepared to close above-ground portions of Metrorail once snowfall reached 8 inches on the tracks and began to cover the electrified third rail.

Amtrak canceled some service along the Eastern Seaboard for Friday and truncated the routes of other trains.




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