Historic snowstorm paralyzes region

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The D.C. area faced a gigantic digging out project Sunday after an historic storm dumped upwards of two feet of snow on the region, leaving many without power and stranded indoors along unplowed streets.

“This is a major event,” said Bob Hainey, a spokesman for Pepco. “We’re going to keeping hitting it.”

Indeed, while the National Weather Service had removed the winter storm warning for the area by Saturday evening, the region still faces a massive clean-up in the coming days.

Montgomery County roads officials said that they may not be able to dig out neighborhoods until Wednesday. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) was also working overtime to keep up.

“We have more than 1,800 trucks — our entire fleet in northern Virginia — working 12-hour shifts around the clock to keep up with the snow,” said VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Smith McCord.

Totals varied widely across the region, and the combination of heavy, wet snow and biting winds left transportation services reeling. All flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport were cancelled until further notice Saturday morning.

Metro cancelled all buses and stopped serving above-ground stations late Friday night. Metrorail also closed at 11 p.m. on Saturday, and there will be no above-ground rail service, Metrobus or MetroAccess service on Sunday.

Amtrak was sending crews home, and postal service in the D.C. area was halted.

The federal government will decide whether there will be work Monday sometime before the Super Bowl, said John Berry, spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management.

At Union Station, London native John Owen was watching the departures screen nervously. He was hoping to catch a play in New York with his daughter. He had already relied on the kindness of strangers just to get to the station.

“My day started well,” he said. “I’m walking around on 18th Street, not a soul in sight. So some guy is driving along in a little four-wheel, taking pictures, and he gives me a lift.”

It was nearly impossible to find a sense of direction in some places; the combination of snow and wind had completely covered up several street signs near Dupont Circle.

A fire at Children’s Hospital in D.C. forced about three dozen patients from their rooms to refuge in a basement. A pickup truck with a snow plow caused the blaze, catching fire near the building.

Authorities blamed the storm for hundreds of accidents, which included a tractor-trailer wreck that killed a father and son stopping to help someone in Virginia. Some local hospitals were asking people with four-wheel-drive vehicles to volunteer to drive doctors and nurses to work.

So grab your shovel — if you can find one.

Roy Ewers, owner of Fischer Ace Hardware in Springfield, Va., said that on Friday his store sold 1,000 shovels — in less than an hour. “It was incredible,” he said. “In the 60 years Fischer’s been here, we1ve never seen it like this — just amazing.

Indeed, preparations for the “Snowpocalypse” were epic. Stafford County in Virginia, just south of Prince William County, actually opened up two shelters Friday afternoon to assist people during the storm.

The heavy snow comes about a month and a half after a storm dumped more than 16 inches of the white stuff on Washington. According to the National Weather Service, Washington has gotten more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870. It is believed that as much as three feet fell in 1772; George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both chronicled that storm in their diaries, though official records were not kept at the time.

Mother Nature may not be done with D.C. yet — the National Weather Service is reporting that a combination of snow and rain could swoop in on Tuesday.

The Associated Press and Examiner intern Kaitlin Schluter contributed to this report.

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