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Nation's Capital Rushes To Prepare For More Snow

A front end loader piles up snow that was trucked in from Senate parking lots at the U.S. Capitol on February 8, 2010 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson
A front end loader piles up snow that was trucked in from Senate parking lots at the U.S. Capitol on February 8, 2010 in Washington, DC.

A second major snow storm in less than a week was blowing Tuesday toward the Mid-Atlantic region, where plows still hadn't touched some roads, utility workers were struggling to restore power and shovels were in short supply.

The storm hit the Midwest early Tuesday, closing schools and greeting commuters with slick, slushy roads from Indianapolis to Chicago. Powerful wind and snow were expected to crawl into Mid-Atlantic states by the afternoon, and could leave as much as 20 inches of new snow in Washington and 18 inches near Philadelphia - a Northeast travel hub - by Wednesday night.

Parts of the region were already buried under nearly 3 feet of snow.

Airlines that shut down flights to Washington over the weekend warned that more would be canceled and that travelers who didn't depart by Tuesday night were likely out of luck. Washington resident Chris Vaughan was fortunate enough to land a seat.

"I'm done with city, urban snow life," said Vaughan, who was going skiing in Utah. He dodged a $100 taxi "snow fare" by having a friend drop him off at Reagan National Airport - in exchange for a bottle of wine.

Others were filling their pantries in case they get stuck at home again.

"Getting around is a pain right now as it is, so slushy and sloppy," said Meghan Garaghan, 28, as she stocked up on staples and sweets at a supermarket in Philadelphia, which got 27 inches of snow. "I don't want to think about what it's going to be like with another foot and a half of snow dumped on top of this mess."

Some spots, including parts of Maryland, had nearly 3 feet of snow from the earlier storm. One scientist said if all that fell on the East Coast were melted, it would fill 12 million Olympic swimming pools or 30,000 Empire State buildings. Philadelphia and Washington each need about nine more inches to give the cities their snowiest winters since 1884, the first year records were kept.

Jerry Bennett, manager of the Strosniders hardware store in Silver Spring, Md., said he sold 500 snow shovels in two hours Friday. Since then, customers have been stalking shipments.

"Every third question is, 'Do you have shovels?"' Bennett said. "Every three hours, we can answer 'yes,' and then they're gone."

The storm that began Friday closed schools, and some 230,000 federal workers in Washington had Monday and Tuesday off. Power was still out for tens of thousands of homes and businesses, and utilities said deep snow was hindering some crews trying to fix damaged power lines before the next storm hits.

The snowbound U.S. Senate met only for a few minutes Monday, and the House called off floor votes on Tuesday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, wearing a V-neck sweater over his usual shirt and tie, said it was difficult to make it to work on snow-clogged streets and the subway system was running on a limited basis.

Planes weren't the only way out of town. Union Station was bustling with long lines as many passengers decided to try Amtrak after flights were canceled.

Manuel Bernardo, 30, of Bethesda, Md., was on his way to Barcelona, Spain. He bought a ticket to New York and was hoping to make it there in time to catch his flight to Madrid.

"Until this morning, I was happy as pie, because I love snow," he said.

In Falls Church, Va., a Washington suburb, Jeff Patmore, 43, was trying to get his Jeep out. The State Department employee's family was running low on supplies - particularly milk for his three young children.

Patmore attempted a grocery run Saturday, but didn't make it far.

"I thought my car could do anything, and I was wrong," he said. "My wonderful neighbors dug me out, and I limped back with my pride injured but everything else intact."

Greg Ten Eyck, a spokesman for Safeway Inc., said road conditions are making it hard for many stores to restock following the "epic" crowds before last week's storm.

A new wave of cold residents was checking into the Hilton in Silver Spring, including Bill and Ann Hilliard and their two elderly cats. Temperatures in their powerless home had dropped into the 40s and with another foot of snow forecast, they didn't want to stay home.

Ann Hilliard recently had part of her leg amputated and their neighbors helped them out of the neighborhood.

"There was no way to get her out otherwise," he said.

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