GWEN IFILL: Another roundhouse blow from winter staggered much of the East Coast today, from Virginia to Connecticut. It pushed Washington and Baltimore to new records for the most snow ever in a single winter.
Rush hour Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C., and not a soul in sight. For the second time in less than a week, a major winter storm crippled the nation’s capital. This time, a foot of wind-whipped snow lashed D.C., still digging out days after 30 inches fell here just last weekend.
A city that has trouble dealing with five inches of snow has now gotten five feet this winter. People are hunkered down and fed up.
SHOPPER: There’s no eggs. There’s no cheese. There’s no meat. It’s crazy.
GWEN IFILL: Ray Suarez was out on the streets of Washington and its suburbs today.
RAY SUAREZ: People who come to live in Washington from places with tough winters poke fun at the capital region’s difficulties with big snows. But this one-two punch is so potent, it would stop any snowbelt city in its tracks.
Through the morning, the wind got stronger and the visibility declined. The area’s rapid transit system was only working underground. The bus fleet was grounded, sitting idle in steadily deepening snow. City and county leaders pleaded with people to just stay home.
In an area that’s paralyzed, the cures for cabin fever are few. This morning, one was Tastee Diner, where the eggs and hash were sizzling, the coffee hot, and a building crew from just down the street in Bethesda consumed a mammoth breakfast, after working nearly round the clock since the last snow.
J.B. Butler hasn’t been home in days.
J.B. BUTLER: I have not seen my house since Friday morning.
RAY SUAREZ: Harold Brown says they aren’t even close to done with their work.
HAROLD BROWN, crewman: When I came out this morning, I didn’t even realize how bad it was. And we have, like, a company right across street that is just pushing snow right over towards us, believe there’s nowhere else to put the snow anymore.
So, I came out of the building. Next thing you know, we had to take and plow ourselves out again this morning, on top of the snow that’s already been there. You know, what can you say?
RAY SUAREZ: This is Wisconsin Avenue, a major north-south artery in and out of the District of Columbia and nearby Montgomery County. It’s a point of pride among jurisdictions to keep the roads open even when the snow tough, bad that’s only up to a point. Today, the blizzard and whiteout conditions got so bad in this area, they even pulled the snowplows.
Virtually everything in Washington was closed. The federal government shut down for a third straight day, but that didn’t stop Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia from making the most of the morning.
REP. JIM MARSHALL, D-Ga.: You don’t see Washington like this, and I have never run down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., so, this is a first.
RAY SUAREZ: The region’s governments and schools shuttered, some school systems for the rest of the week, the three major airports, Reagan National, Dulles and BWI, closed.
Nationwide, airlines canceled several thousand flights for the next few days. Thousands in the Mid-Atlantic were still without power from the last storm. And one major utility in Washington area suspended its effort to restore service because of dangerous conditions.
Washington regional commuter train service was halted as well. Amtrak maintained some service in its busy Northeast Corridor, but many trains never left the station.
WOMAN: Pretty much every hour on the hour canceled.
RAY SUAREZ: Even the U.S. mail and its post men and women who ordinarily brave, you know, snow, rain, gloom of night, they’re at home, too.
GWEN IFILL: It’s not just the Mid-Atlantic getting hit this time. One hundred million Americans in more than a dozen states are affected. Not all were unhappy, of course, including this jogger in Pennsylvania, who went running bare-chested.
But the massive storm spread a wall of snow, sleet and rain from Chicago through the Ohio Valley, Washington and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New Jersey, and into New York City, where up to 18 inches was expected.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told New Yorkers, stay off the roads.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, mayor of New York: If the storm is what it is, you are going to be stuck on the roads for who knows how long. I mean, it’s just common sense.
GWEN IFILL: But, while Congress was closed, delaying hearings on Toyota and gays in the military, New York City’s government was up and running. The storm didn’t stop Wall Street either. Trading went on as scheduled.
But, for just the third time in six years, New York City’s public schools were closed. Students were hardly heartbroken.
STUDENT: I’m beginning to get a little sleep, probably a little studying. Nah, I’m just kidding. I’m going to go sledding all day! Whoo!
GWEN IFILL: All that snow has to go somewhere, and the mayor’s office said it will cost about $1 million an inch to clear the city’s five boroughs.
And, from Chicago to New Jersey, the challenge of excavating streets entombed in snow will be much the same.