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East Coast digs out as South prepares

Government offices in Washington open on limited schedule for first time in a week

BY KATE SAAVEDRA | BALTIMORE | February 11, 2010

Major East Coast cities began to return to normal Friday as government offices opened on a limited schedule following major back to back storms that nearly paralyzed the region. But in the South, forecasters were warning states that rarely see severe winter weather could be hit hard this weekend.

A blizzard roared up the Atlantic coast Wednesday, knocking out power, closing highways, airports, schools and government offices. The second major storm hit just four days after the record-breaking snowfall that had dropped more than three-feet of snow in parts of the mid-Atlantic states. As much as 30-inches of additional snow, combined with drifts of three to six feet, was predicted.

The second major snowfall in a week that fell on Wednesday broke seasonal snowfall records at all three airports in the Baltimore-Washington area. The National Weather Service measured a whopping 79.9-inches at Baltimore/ Washington Thurgood Marshall airport on Thursday, breaking the previous 62.5-inch record set for 1995-96. At Ronald Reagan National Airport, a recorded 55.9 inches broke the 1898-99 snowfall season record of 54.4-inches. Dulles International Airport saw 72.8 inches, busting the 61.9-inch record in 1995-96. In Philadelphia, the 71.6-inch snowfall topped the previous record of 65.5 inches for the 1995-96 season.

Parts of the mid-Atlantic were already covered with more than three feet of snow following last weekend’s storm, which also produced record-breaking precipitation, but this storm “just pushed us over the top,” said NWS Meteorologist Bob Wanton of the Philadelphia/ Mt. Holly station.

On Wednesday night in Frederick County near Thurmont, 20-to-30 tractor trailers were stuck on snow-plagued parts of Route 340 south of Frederick and Interstate 70 near Braddock rendering the roads impassable, trapping 39 vehicles along the route. With the help of Humvees and helicopters, state police, military police and National Guard personnel were able to rescue the occupants on Thursday.

Forecasters predict a sunny Friday with temperatures in the mid-30s with breezy conditions for Baltimore, D.C. and Philadelphia, though Monday could bring more snow for all three cities. NWS said there is a 50 percent chance of snow on President’s Day, with the possibility of one-to-three inches.

But in the South, emergency officials including the Salvation Army, were gearing up for a major winter storm.

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