HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — After pummeling the nation’s midsection with heavy snow, a late-winter storm was making its way Wednesday toward the nation’s capital, where residents braced for the possibility of snarled traffic and power outages.
As the storm closed in, the federal government said its offices in the Washington, D.C., area would be closed Wednesday.
The storm had brought around 10 inches of snow to weather-hardened Chicago by late Tuesday, when snow was also starting to come down in parts of Virginia. Schools were closed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and more than 1,100 flights were cancelled at Chicago’s two major airports, prompting delays and closures at others.
Airlines along the storm’s projected path were already cutting flights too, including hundreds more Wednesday, most of them at Dulles and Reagan National airports in the Washington area, according to FlightAware.com.
While there were no initial reports of major accidents in the Chicago area, a semi-trailer slid off a snow-covered interstate in western Wisconsin, killing one person. The search for a second person, believed to be a passenger, was suspended overnight.
As the storm pushed toward the Mid-Atlantic states, forecasters were predicting snow accumulations of 3 to 7 inches in the Washington area and up to 16 inches in the western Maryland mountains by Wednesday night. Minor tidal flooding was possible along the Delaware coast, the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Potomac River.
Still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, the Jersey Shore was preparing for another possible hit Wednesday and Thursday. The storm should bring rain and snow, but one of the biggest problems could be flooding in areas where dunes were washed away and many damaged homes still sit open and exposed. Those areas could get 2 to 4 inches of snow, with Monmouth and some inland counties possibly getting as much as 6 inches.
An upper-level, low-pressure system coming in from the northwest and a surface low sweeping up from Kentucky were expected to converge along the Virginia-West Virginia line, bringing heavy precipitation, cold temperatures and winds gusting up to 35 mph.
“Whenever you’re talking about that much heavy, wet snow and those winds of 20-30 mph with some higher gusts, there’s a concern for numerous power outages,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Klein in Sterling, Va.
Both Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Pepco in the Washington area said they would have extra line crews available.
The Maryland State Highway Administration pre-positioned tow trucks at rest stops and park-and-ride lots, and told its tree-trimmers to get ready.
“We certainly anticipate some signal outages. We certainly anticipate some trees down, which can cause power outages,” spokesman David Buck said.