District of Columbia officials said snowfall could affect both the morning and evening rush hours. The Maryland Transit Administration was monitoring overhead power lines for snow and ice accumulation, and Washington’s Metro subway workers were focused on clearing snow from tracks, platforms and parking lots.
In Virginia, the storm was expected to dip along the coast and dump moisture-laden snow inland totaling a foot in the Blue Ridge Mountains and up to 21 inches in higher elevations.
Dominion Virginia Power had also alerted out-of-state utilities it might require assistance if the storm lived up to its billing.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell directed executive branch agencies to allow eligible nonessential employees to work remotely or to “be generous” in approving leave requests for workers who live in regions under a storm watch or warning.
The state’s emergency operations center was to open Wednesday morning, and state transportation officials advised motorists to avoid travel at the height of the storm.
“The snow is going to come down at a very fast rate,” agency spokesman Sandy Myers said. “We just need folks to stay off the roads so the plow drivers can hopefully keep up with the storm.”
The Baltimore-Washington area’s last snowstorm struck Jan. 26, 2011. It hit Washington during the evening rush hour, causing some motorists to be stuck in traffic nearly overnight. It dropped 5 inches on Washington and 7.8 inches on Baltimore, knocked out power to about 320,000 homes and contributed to six deaths.
Since then, the federal government has changed its bad-weather policies to allow workers to leave their offices sooner or to work from home if major storms are expected.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which sets leave policies for 300,000 federal workers, said non-emergency employees of the federal government would be granted excused absences for Wednesday. The agency was criticized after the 2011 storm for waiting too long to tell workers to go home, leading to gridlock.
Still, some Mid-Atlantic residents were looking forward to the snow. “I love it — I love it when we have snow days,” Baltimore homemaker Mary White said Tuesday afternoon as she hurried to finish errands.
The current storm is part of a system that started in Montana, hit the Dakotas and Minnesota on Monday and then barreled through Wisconsin and Illinois on its way to Washington.