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Region braces for battering from new snowstorm

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The snow-weary D.C. region hunkered down for yet another major winter storm as a strong coastal system is expected to batter the area with a foot or more of fresh powder.

The National Weather Service forecast called for 10 to 20 inches of new snow by Wednesday evening, with a north wind gusting to near 40 mph causing blowing and drifting. Travel will be very hazardous, if not impossible, especially along secondary roads still buried after the weekend's 2-foot or more dumping.

Supermarkets shelves were cleared and gas stations ran low on fuel as residents prepared to shelter in place, again. Area governments, though storm weary, declared themselves ready for Round Two. But waning resources — salt was in short supply — and crumbling infrastructure threatened to hamper the recovery.

A quarter of all D.C. plows had broken down and were unavailable, according to reports. But Nancee Lyons, Department of Public Works spokeswoman, responded there was no "shortage of fleet," that DPW mechanics are working around the clock and if required, "contract plows are brought in."

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell extended the state of emergency in the Old Dominion, while Mayor Adrian Fenty reinstituted the District's snow emergency as of 4 p.m. Tuesday. Vehicles left along snow emergency routes in D.C. will be towed while the emergency remains in effect.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department pressed 175 additional staff into duty, combining shifts, and called in National Guard troops. Montgomery County, meanwhile, opened two additional shelters, in Gaithersburg and Silver Spring, for residents without power.

Metro offered expanded service Tuesday, running aboveground trains for the first time since Friday night. The agency also resumed limited MetroAccess service and had 300 buses running.

Still, it was uncertain how long any service would remain. Metro normally stops aboveground rail service when snowfall accumulates 8 inches. But because Tuesday's storm was coming on top of existing snow, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the agency would have to judge conditions on a case-by-case basis.

Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airports remained open Tuesday despite numerous flight cancellations.

"This seems to be a one-two punch, if you will," said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's Mark Treadaway.

But why is this happening? The D.C. area hasn't experienced a winter like this since 1996 -- if ever.

Conditions have gelled to create a near-perfect pattern for snow, said Jared Klein, a National Weather Service meteorologist. El Nino, a period of unusual warmth in the tropical Pacific Ocean, has sent a parade of storms across the southern United States. Cold air from the north has locked into place. And warmer than normal water off the Atlantic coast has helped to strengthen low-pressure systems.

"The last week or two, there has been a very favorable pattern and all the conditions have come together," Klein said.

Montgomery County shelters  

»  Gwendolyn Coffield Community Center, 2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring

»  Seneca Valley High School, 19401 Crystal Rock Drive, Germantown

»  Richard Montgomery High School, 250 Richard Montgomery Drive, Rockville

 

Examiner Staff Writer Kytja Weir contributed to this report.

 

mneibauer@washingtonexaminer.com

 

 

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