Snowzilla is done with us, but now the shoveling begins – Washington Post

Let the shoveling begin.

The Washington region awoke Sunday, battered by one of the biggest storms in the area’s history, to face a monumental dig out that is likely to hobble the city well into the workweek.

Morning brought the sight of mountains of plowed snow and landscapes buried in white.

The epic nor’easter of 2016 closed its 36-hour reign over the D.C. region Saturday night, moving up the Atlantic coast, hammering other cities in its path, and leaving in its wake a light breeze, cold temperatures and clear skies.

Thoughts turned to Monday, and the start of the workweek, and it appeared the initial recovery could extend the region’s shutdown. In Maryland, the University of Maryland and Frederick County Public Schools have already announced that they will be closed Monday.

But first comes the big dig: How to move it all? And where to put it?

The blizzard brought Washington and its suburbs to a standstill, with all but a few major highways made impassable by more than two feet of snow.

The winds that spared the region for the storm’s first 24 hours arrived at gale strength Saturday afternoon, pushing snow back onto the few cleared roads and sidewalks and threatening to take down power lines that serve 6 million people. But there were relatively few power outages. Local utilities were reporting only a handful Sunday morning.

The last of the snow fell in the region around 11:45 p.m. Saturday. Snowfall totals ranged from 10 to 35 inches, with the heaviest accumulation to the north and west of the city, outside the Capital Beltway.

Authorities warned that it would take days before all the roads became passable. With Sunday’s sunny forecast, authorities feared that people housebound since Friday would be eager to get out.

“Please do not go out and get on the road tomorrow or Monday,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said Saturday afternoon. “We are working primary roads right now, and then beginning next week, we will get into the secondary roads.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said: “There are too many people on the streets, both driving and walking. We need you to stay home.”

Further north, officials declared snow emergencies, banning drivers from the roads. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) imposed a travel ban in New York City. In Baltimore, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, only emergency vehicles were allowed on city streets. Why not the District?

“We want our community to heed our recommendations, our concerns, and get off the road,” Bowser said. “But more than that, we cannot afford to divert our emergency services to police a travel ban.”

A Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman lambasted SUV owners out on joyrides. “There’s a lot of people in four-wheel drives that are just kind of out cruising around, and they’re getting in the way of snow operations,” spokesman Charlie Gischlar said.

At least five deaths — four in Virginia and one in Maryland — were linked to the storm. They included a traffic fatality, heart attacks while shoveling snow and two hypothermia deaths.

Nationwide, at least 18 deaths were attributed to the storm, most because of traffic crashes.

Accumulations in many places around D.C. neared two feet, or more. The National Zoo in Northwest Washington got 22.4 inches, as of Saturday night.

Hyattsville, in Prince George’s County got 25 inches. Thirty inches fell in Manassas, as of Sunday morning. And Round Hill, in Loudoun County, got three feet.

In Manassas, 67 residents were forced to evacuate their apartments early Sunday after a roof partially collapsed on one building and appeared to be faltering on another.

Prince William Fire and Rescue crews were called to the Coverstone Apartments in the 10900 block of Coverstone Drive at 12:25 a.m., according to Matt Smolsky, the assistant chief.

No one was injured, Smolsky said, but at 3 a.m., workers were still seeking alternative shelter for the residents. He said a buildup of snow on the roofs of the buildings was no doubt a factor in the collapse, if not the cause.

The enormousness of the storm will be calculated after it’s all over, when the snowfall totals are collected from the region’s three major airports and other less prestigious sources.

But it certainly will rival the totals from the record for the biggest two-day snowstorm in Washington. That was set Jan. 27-28, 1922, when 26 inches fell. That snowfall collapsed the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Adams Morgan, killing more than 100 people. And this weekend’s snow eclipsed the biggest winter storm of this young century, “Snowmageddon” of Feb. 5-6, 2010, when 17.8 inches fell.

Around 5 p.m., Snowzilla officially met the criteria for a blizzard, with three straight hours of wind gusts at more than 35 mph, visibility of a quarter-mile or less, and snow and blowing snow.

The magnitude of the storm, with its delivery of three inches of snow per hour, paralyzed the East Coast from Richmond to New York. Roads and public transit shut down in New York and Washington, and low-lying coastal regions from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to Long Island, N.Y., prepared for flooding Sunday and Monday.

The low-pressure system fueling the snowstorm had generated hurricane-force gusts at sea, and the forecast was for waves as tall as a three-story building.

Airlines canceled almost 10,000 flights in and out of the stricken region and said they did not expect to resume regular schedules until Monday. Even then, it will be a few days before air travel returns to normal.

Runways at Reagan National and Dulles International airports were expected to remain closed Sunday while crews cleared snow.

The U.S. Postal Service gave up on attempts to deliver the mail Saturday in the Washington region and said carriers would try again Monday. The agency asked homeowners to dig out their mailboxes and clear sidewalks.

The Metro system’s buses and rail lines were to remain shut down through the weekend. Metro hoped to resume operations Monday.

State police in Virginia said they responded to 1,100 accidents statewide, the majority of them in Northern Virginia.

Road crews around the region were focused on clearing major arteries, so residents were cautioned not to expect their neighborhood streets to be cleared soon.


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