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Eastern US braces for fresh snow blitz

February 09, 2010

The rarely-shuttered US government closed down for a second day Tuesday, as the northeast braced for another massive snow blitz just days after a historic blizzard paralyzed the region.

Schools in the Washington area were shut and thousands of homes were without power after a massive snowfall barrelled across the area Friday and Saturday, leaving some area entombed in as much as three feet (one meter) of snow.

Forecasters said residents now face another wintry onslaught, with nearly another 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of snow forecast to fall on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Unlike the last blizzard, Tuesday's storm was expected to travel clear up the east coast, reaching as far north as New England.

As harried commuters in the mid-Atlantic states struggled to get to work on roads that were not completely cleared, most of the 230,000 federal employees were not going to work.

Meanwhile airports in the area, which closed down during the worst of the weekend blizzard, faced the prospect of more delayed and cancelled flights on Tuesday.

"Passengers should confirm with their airlines that their flight is operating before departing for the airport," Mark Treadaway, a public affairs officer at Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told AFP.

He said that crews were preparing to treat the airport with chemicals and snow removal equipment to keep operations going.

"We're going to stay focused with a very close eye on the forecast. Our crews are standing by with all the appropriate treatments," he said.

Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland have declared emergencies, allowing them to mobilize the National Guard to help cope with the unprecedented snow.

School officials in at least one Washington DC suburb, Virginia's Loudoun County, have decided to remain closed for the rest of the week -- reopening only after next Monday's President's Day holiday on February 15.

"It should be better tomorrow, but it is a huge challenge to get the interstates cleared before the next storm on Tuesday," said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, which clears state and residential roads.

"Especially when we've also got 9,000 miles of subdivision roads," Morris added.

Even without the new snowfall, power companies had said it could take days to restore power to homes plunged into the dark when falling trees and branches snapped power lines. The prognosis was even more dismal with the new snowfall.

Many of those without power gathered in restaurants and coffee shops on major avenues where power was often

restored first. Some residents of suburban Washington spent two days huddled at businesses, unable to go home.

The deepest snow left by the weekend "Snowmageddon" was in the small town of Colesville, central Maryland, which was buried in 40 inches (101 centimeters) of snow, the National Weather Service said.

The new snowfall arrives just as life had begun to return to normal, as metro trains resumed service and residents dug out cars and cleared driveways. Some stores and coffee shops reopened after a rare shutdown.

Boris Ruhadze, 24, was stuck at the International House of Pancakes in Rockville, Maryland from Friday afternoon when the storm started until Monday morning.

"We slept on the benches in some of the booths, in a part of the restaurant they closed off. The line was out the door on Friday, and even worse on Saturday as people lost power," Ruhadze said.

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