HAGERSTOWN — Road crews coated highways with brine and utility companies secured extra workers Tuesday as a double-barreled winter storm threatened to bring traffic snarls and power outages to Washington and the Middle Atlantic region.
A flurry of cancellations and safety warnings preceded the expected arrival overnight of rain followed by wet snow that was expected to accumulate to 3 to 7 inches in the nation’s capital and up to 16 inches in the western Maryland mountains by Wednesday night. Minor tidal flooding is possible along the Delaware coast, the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Potomac River, the National Weather Service said.
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, the weather service said.
“It’ll be windy everywhere Wednesday, especially during the afternoon and into the evening. 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 said it pre-positioned tow trucks at rest stops and park-and-ride lots along interstate highways and had 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.
District of Columbia officials said snowfall could affect both the morning and evening rush hours Wednesday. The Maryland Transit Administration activated a plan to monitor overhead power lines for snow and ice accumulation, and Washington’s Metro subway system cancelled routine track maintenance to focus on clearing snow from tracks, platforms and parking lots.
As miserable as things could get for commuters, taxi driver Balwinder Singh of Herndon, Va., said he was looking forward to the storm.
“People tip better in the snow,” he said.
Singh said he enjoys the snow, even though he was stuck for 12 hours on the George Washington Parkway in late January 2011, when a storm hit in the middle of evening rush hour. That storm, the region’s last major snowstorm, knocked out power to more than 230,000 homes — some for several days — and contributed to six deaths in the area.
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 Office of Personnel Management, which sets leave policies for 300,000 federal workers, was monitoring weather forecasts but didn’t indicate when it might make an announcement. The agency was criticized after the 2011 storm for waiting too long to tell workers to go home, leading to gridlock.