Snow bears down on DC as Mid-Atlantic region preps

A powerful winter storm bore down on the Mid-Atlantic today with as much as 2 feet of snow in store for the nation's capital, where the federal government prepared to shut early.

A powerful winter storm bore down on the Mid-Atlantic today with as much as 2 feet of snow in store for the nation's capital, where the federal government prepared to shut early.

Airlines canceled flights across the region and school districts closed for the day ahead of heavy, wet snow forecast from Virginia and West Virginia across Maryland into southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Washington residents scrambled for milk, bread and snow shovels ahead of the storm that was due to move across the region through Saturday.

"As you see, I'm in front of Whole Foods and half of the food is gone already," Denise Wright said on a shopping trip for staples.

In Alexandria, Va., James Ivery, 60, and his wife had already bought supplies but were back at a Harris Teeter supermarket Friday morning to get out of the house one last time before the storm. Many shelves and bins were emptied of milk, vegetables, eggs and cold cuts.


"It just seems like people are panicking. I don't think it's going to be too bad," Ivery said. "As long as I got power and satellite service, I'll be fine."

Michael Bloomfield, working at Logan Hardware in Washington, said snow shovels, ice melter and salt were selling fast. "Everybody's been scrambling, calling us, ringing off the phone all day long," he said.

The federal government, the region's largest employer, told workers they could take Friday off as unplanned leave and prepared to shut offices four hours early.

Those who can work from home should do so, said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. Across the region, state officials were deploying thousands of trucks and employees and had hundreds of thousands of tons of salt at the ready.

"This is not a good mix," Morris said. "Heavy, wet snow with gusting winds is going to make it a very tough storm for us. I expect visibility will be very poor in spots, and we'll have to deal with drifting snow."

The National Weather Service warned snow accumulations of 18 inches to 28 inches are expected from Baltimore to northern Virginia and parts of West Virginia.

Blizzard warnings were in effect in much of Delaware and southern New Jersey from Friday afternoon to Saturday night, with strong winds and blowing, drifting snow.

Philadelphia could get about a foot of snow and 6 to 12 inches are expected in the Pittsburgh area.


The weather service also warns that the mix of heavy snow and strong winds would make travel Friday night "very hazardous or nearly impossible."

Virginia's General Assembly canceled Friday's floor sessions and committee meetings, the first time anyone could remember that the threat of snow had sent the whole legislature home. Officials urged people to stock up on supplies Thursday night and warned of a tough evening commute Friday.

Virginia Del. Tim Hugo was hurrying out of a Thursday afternoon committee meeting so he could get home to Fairfax County, a Washington suburb that's supposed to get hit.

"I'm heading out of here now because I don't want my wife stranded at home with 2 feet of snow in the drive," he said.

Southwest Airlines canceled Friday afternoon flights at Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington airports. Amtrak canceled most trains heading south from Washington, D.C.

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. The assistance includes deploying National Guard soldiers and emergency response teams.

A mid-December storm brought about 20 inches of snow to many areas in the region. Between that and several smaller snowfalls, the region's road crews have had plenty of practice in the past two months.

Maryland highway officials said they have spent about $50 million so far clearing and treating roads this winter. That's almost twice the $26 million that had been budgeted.


The Virginia Department of Transportation said it already spent the $79 million budgeted for statewide snow removal and was tapping into emergency maintenance funds. Once that $25 million reserve is exhausted, the department said it will have to dip into other programs to cover its costs.

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