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Blizzard of 2010 Paralyzes District

Norma Porter | 2/10/2010, 7:52 p.m.

The Washington region was brought to a standstill by a blizzard that dumped 25 inches of wet, heavy snow on the area and forced the federal government, District public schools and area businesses to shutter and prepare for what the National Weather Service predicted as the worse snowstorm since the Blizzard of 1996, a Nor€easter that paralyzed the East Coast for more than one week.

The Washington region was brought to a standstill by a blizzard that dumped 25 inches of wet, heavy snow on the area and forced the federal government, District public schools and area businesses to shutter and prepare for what the National Weather Service predicted as the worse snowstorm since the Blizzard of 1996, a Nor€easter that paralyzed the East Coast for more than one week.

District residents rushed to local grocery and hardware stores and waited in long lines throughout the city in the hope of stock piling food, shovels and bags of salt.
Natiya Curtis, 29, said that she traveled to three grocery stores Friday morning, in an attempt to stock her refrigerator before the storm.

€First I went to the Safeway and a worker there told me not to go inside because the line was in the back of the store by the bakery,€ Curtis said.

€Then, I went to the Whole Foods and Giant in Silver Spring [Md.], but there was barely any food left. The lines were so long that they made a makeshift checkout line in the produce section. I spent three hours trying to get a little bit of stuff,€ the Northwest resident said.

The Blizzard of 2010 blasted the District and surrounding jurisdictions with a wet, wintry mix of snow that began late in the afternoon on Fri., Feb. 5 and continued into Saturday. By the time the snow stopped Saturday evening, close to two feet of snow covered the District, halting Metro bus service, Metrorail service above ground and restricting flights in and out of the region€s airports. For the first time in three decades, the U.S. Postal Service did not deliver mail on Saturday.

Qi€Ana Hooker, a native Washingtonian who recently moved to West Palm Beach, Fla., flew into Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va., last week for a job interview, but ended up being stranded in the District due to the snowstorm.

Hooker, a real estate broker, said that the snowstorm ruined her plans.

€I flew in on Tuesday, February 3 for a job interview in Columbia, Md.,€ Hooker said. €I planned to travel to New York on business Sunday night via the Greyhound bus, but with limited transportation, those plans were cancelled. I only expected to be here until Wednesday, February 10. I have no idea how this is going to work out.€
City officials encouraged residents to stay at home, Sat., Feb. 6.

"We are still under a blizzard warning and the National Weather Service is now predicting up to another 10 €" [18] inches of snow. Please stay home -- have some fun and play outside in the snow at your house. Just please stay off of the roadways,€ said Gabe Klein, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation.

The D.C. Department of Public Works deployed more than 750 workers, who worked 12-hour shifts, to treat and plow streets.

€There are 140 snow routes in the District and whenever there is a deployment, we have nearly 270 trucks go out and plow the streets,€ said Nancee Lyons, a spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

€The heavier trucks go on the larger roads and the lighter trucks go through the neighborhoods,€ she said.

In addition to the city coming to a complete halt, hundreds of thousands of residents across the region experienced power outages.

€The upper Northwest area in D.C. and Montgomery County neighborhoods in Maryland were the hardest hit [with power outages],€ said Bob Hainey, manager of public relations at Pepco.

€The heavy, wet snow caused trees and branches of trees to break off and land on wires. By Saturday we had more than 1,000 down wires all across Prince George€s and Montgomery County and D.C,€ he said.

Hainey said that the conditions of the streets made it difficult for Pepco assessment crews to find down power lines and refer them to service crews for immediate repair. Pepco worked with local leaders to restore service to customers, he said.

€We started assessing some of the damaged power lines Friday evening, but some of our trucks started to get stuck in the snow and it stopped our assessment process,€ Hainey said.

€People were without power and heat and we couldn€t get on the major or secondary roads because the snow was piled two feet high in some places. We immediately reached out to Montgomery County, Prince George€s County and D.C. and they responded. They began plowing roads, which helped us to begin restoring service to our customers.€

Curtis said her lights started to flicker when she returned home from grocery shopping Friday and eventually her electricity went off.

€Our power went off at about 4:30 p.m., and it didn€t come back on until 9:30 p.m.,€ Curtis said.

€There was really nothing else to do but go to sleep. I was glad when it came back on that night because it started to get very cold.€

The weight of the snow also destroyed a historic landmark in the Deanwood neighborhood of Northeast, Sat., Feb. 6. The roof of Joshua€s Temple First Born, an African American church built in 1908, collapsed when a tree fell on the roof and caused both the roof and the walls to give way. While no one was inside of the church, the fire department evacuated several homes surrounding the building while utility providers rushed to the scene to turn off gas and other utilities that threatened residents who live nearby.

Washington€s largest snowfall on record occurred in January 1922 when the city was pummeled with 28 inches of snow. The weight of the snow caused the roof of the Knickerboxer Theatre in Northwest to collapse. Ninety 98 persons were killed and 133 moviegoers were injured.

While the snowstorm created a headache for most of the region, Alicia Leake said that being confined to her home with her husband and son felt like a much-needed break.

Leake who lives in Southeast, said that her power didn€t go out, but their satellite television service did.

€Some people may look at this as a negative, but I look at it as a positive. I feel like I€m cherishing the days in the house,€ Leake, 30, said.

€With the hustle and bustle of life, you have to make time to spend time with your family. But the snow came and forced us to stay in. I enjoy being able to play board games with my family.€