More snow for weary East Coast

Second February storm expected not as hefty, but will compound existing problems

BY KATE SAAVEDRA | POTOMAC, MD | February 9, 2010

Workers remove snow from the roof of a home in Potomac, Md. following last weekend's winter storm.
Credit: DNN/ Kate Saavedra

Three days after the record-breaking snowfall that socked-in the mid-Atlantic states, thousands of residents are still without power and many more are still digging out while forecasters say an approaching storm could bring 10 or more inches by Wednesday.

In Montgomery County, Md., where the average snowfall was 27.6 inches, residents are just beginning to emerge from their homes. Plows have yet to reach many neighborhood streets and in cleared areas, people have barely shoveled snow out of driveways. Some are still without electricity and some Maryland school systems are have announced school will be closed through Friday.

“We are prepared for today (Tuesday) and Wednesday,” said Judy Ku, a

librarian at the Potomac Library, though she was not thrilled at the prospect of spending another chilly night sans power.

“We went two days with no power. It was scary,” said Ku. She and her

husband couldn’t even use their fireplace to keep warm since it requires electricity, so they had to pile on layers of clothing to cope with the temperature.

Snow-related woes will continue for many according to the National Weather Service, which issued a Winter Storm Warning for more than 15 states, stretching from Connecticut south along the coast to Virginia and west to Minnesota. Parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina are included in the warning, but the bulk of storm will affect the eastern Midwest and mid-Atlantic. The storm will arrive in most areas by Tuesday afternoon and leave by Wednesday evening, with heavy snowfall and windy conditions overnight.

Chicago is looking at eight-to-12 inches of snow and Philadelphia will see 10-to-18 inches by Wednesday evening.

These winter storms are caused by a strong jet stream picking up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico as it moves from the Southwest to the Southeast and up the Carolina coast, said NWS Meteorologist Kevin Witt. He explained that the southern jet stream is part of this El Nino season and as soon as the jet stream moves north, the winter storms will cease.

How soon is an end to these repetitive winter storms expected? It’s too early to

tell, said Witt, but they will continue at least through mid-February.

Tuesday night’s winter storm won’t quite pack the punch of the last, but adding to the nearly three feet of snow that’s already coating parts of Maryland, the expected 6-to-14 inch snowfall and strong winds will be enough to take down some power lines, said forecasters.

Some 108,000 Pepco electric company customers in Maryland lost power due to Friday’s storm and as of Tuesday morning 10,205 remain without power, said Clay Anderson, a Pepco spokesperson. He said Pepco’s goal is to restore electricity to all customers before the storm hits Tuesday.

Baltimore Gas and Electric had restored power to all but 857 of its customers by Tuesday afternoon. At the storm's peak, more than 97,600 customers were without power.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency is so busy dealing with plowing roads, they haven’t had time to calculate how much last weekend’s storm has cost them, said Ed McDonough, public information officer for MEMA. This year’s budget for clearing state highways is nearly depleted, with $50 million of its approximately $62 million budget spent, said McDonough, adding that each county has it’s own budget for dealing with roads in their jurisdiction, and most counties are facing the same monetary distress.

MEMA has a pending request for FEMA reimbursement of costs relating to the winter storm in December and expects to file a request for the February storms. McDonough explained that FEMA bases reimbursements on a combination of dollars spent and whether the snowfall totals near records.

While big bucks are spent to remove snow from roads, the weather is far from cooperating. In addition to the abundant snowfall, daytime highs in the lower-to-mid 30s aren’t helping the problem of clearing roadways, said Witt. He said despite clearing efforts, Maryland residents should expect poor travel conditions as long the temperature hovers near the freezing mark.

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