Though it is currently a balmy 60 degrees on this sixth day of December, some weather forecasters are suggesting there could be a snow fall in the very near future. Luckily District and regional agencies have recently rolled out their plans for confronting winter weather this season.
According to the Capital Weather Gang, the region could see three or four inches of snow by Thursday morning.
Though the operative word there is "could." As The Washington Post's Wes Junker writes, "like most of our threats, this one still is cloaked in uncertainty as the models differ on how quickly the cold air shifts into the area and on how much precipitation will accompany the system."
Agencies like Metro are constantly rethinking their winter weather strategies as each season teaches new lessons.
“Metro provides the region with essential service during winter weather, but it is important for customers and stakeholders to understand our limitations and the effects that weather can have on service,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles in a prepared statement.
Metro details its new severe winter weather plan on the agency website, but the key elements are:
- Snowfall up to 1 inch: Normal service is expected on Metrobus and Metrorail.
- 1 to 2 inches of snow: Metrobus will maintain a normal schedule as long as road and traffic conditions permit. A number of routes may be rerouted. Metrorail will provide normal service with minimal delays.
- 2 to 4 inches of snow: Buses on heavily traveled routes will run approximately every 15 minutes. Detours will be in place on many routes in known problem areas, such as hilly areas and narrow neighborhood streets. Metrobus will begin to curtail service on routes to outlying suburbs and hilly areas as buses become challenged. Metrorail will increase the wait times between trains, therefore customers can expect minor delays.
- 4 to 8 inches of snow: Metrobus will continue to scale back service. Buses will operate approximately every 30 minutes on heavily traveled routes as conditions permit. Metrorail will continue to operate, however customers may expect 15 minute delays. Trains with snow plows and ice scrapers attached will operate between trains carrying passengers.
- More than 8 inches of snow: Metrobus will provide limited service. Buses will operate only on the busiest routes on main roads, and only as conditions permit. Metrorail will provide underground rail service and limited above ground service. As conditions worsen, Metorail will operate underground only.
When the season's first wintry mix fell in late October, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray assured residents that District agencies were prepared.
On Oct. 28, the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) conducted a snow-preparedness “dry run” to prepare for the anticipated weekend weather.
“Agencies that handle transportation, snow removal and emergency response are drilled and ready," said Gray in a news release.
The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) encourages residents to do their own part to prepare for snowy and icy weather:
- Prepare to shelter in place by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
- Winterize your home by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
- Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
- Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
- Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
- Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.
- Have a NOAA weather radio or a hand crank radio to receive weather reports and emergency information.