Arctic blast, accumulating snow freezes area -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 4:05 p.m. Jan. 21, 2014.

Bands of snow came through region today with the heaviest amounts expected through early evening and a winter storm warning in effect until 11 p.m.

With local weather reports indicating the possibility of significant snowfall through Tuesday evening, Montgomery County Executive declared a snow emergency beginning at 5 p.m., according to a county news release. The state also designated a snow emergency. Under a snow emergency, it’s illegal to park cars along snow emergency routes and they will be towed. It’s also illegal to drive on snow emergency routes without snow tires, mud/snow radials or tire chains, according to the release.

Gaithersburg City Manager Tony Tomasello also issued a snow emergency effective at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Drivers are under a strict order to move cars from snow emergency routes and cul-de-sacs.

Temperatures are expected to drop to 7 degrees overnight, according to the National Weather Service, as the area picks up anywhere from six to 10 inches of snow.

State Highway Administration crews will continue to plow through the storm. However, low visibility is a concern and the SHA is encouraging travelers to get to their destination and remain for the night, according to an SHA news release.

You can track what roads have been plowed in Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince George’s counties through maps at the county governments’ web sites.

Additionally, some municipalities plow their own streets. Montgomery County has a list here of jurisdictions that cover their own plowing.

Fairfax County government offices opened this morning but closed early at 1 p.m. after heavier snow began falling. Public schools, school age child care centers and county courts are closed. Classes at Northern Virginia Community College are also canceled, and George Mason University closed at 11:30 a.m. However, a special election for Virginia’s 33rd Senate District will still take place, according to fairfaxcounty.gov. Residents are encouraged to vote early.

Montgomery County government is open Tuesday with liberal leave available for nonessential employees, according to its website. Schools in Montgomery were already closed Tuesday for a planned professional day, but school and community activities in school buildings this afternoon have been canceled, according to montgomeryschoolsmd.org. Some day care programs in school buildings may be open, however. Parents should check with their daycare provider.

Montgomery College is also closed, including classes and other activities.

Prince George’s County officials also closed public schools on Tuesday.

The county public school system prepared for Tuesday’s forecast by pretreating school sidewalks and verifying that all heating systems were working properly, said spokesman Max Pugh.

“We are concerned about the frigid weather tomorrow,” he said. “We’re hoping not to have a whole lot of snow starting tomorrow morning.”

Pugh said emergency personnel will visit each school again Tuesday evening to clear walkways and re-check the heating systems.

“We will make sure all of our schools, sidewalks and parking lots are prepared for students, parents and staff,” he said.

Prince George’s County government is closed Tuesday. Essential personnel are still required to report to work.

The University of Maryland, College Park; Bowie State University; Prince George’s Community College; and federal offices also closed for the day.

Prince George’s police spokesman Harry Bond said the morning began fairly calmly in the area, with no major incidents and officers patrolling as normal.

“Everything was pretty ordinary,” he said.

The City of Falls Church declared a snow emergency effective 11 a.m. Tuesday, pursuant to the city’s emergency operations plan. The snow emergency is effective until further notice is issued, so residents must remove parked cars from snow emergency routes. The no parking requirement will be enforced by the City of Falls Church Police Department on designated snow emergency routes. Officials say these routes are essential transportation corridors and must remain clear in order to allow snow removal crews to clear the roads. Residents are also encouraged wherever possible to not park cars on any streets so snow plows have unheeded passage.Traffic signs identify which city streets are snow emergency routes. Vehicles abandoned or parked on snow emergency routes may be towed and fined. The traffic emergency routes are available on the city’s website at www.fallschurchva.gov/SnowRoutes.

Staff writers Emilie Eastman, Jessica Loder and Gregg MacDonald contributed to this story.