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Washington Subdued by Heavy Snow

January 26, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal government workers were told to stay home again today after a surprise winter storm blanketed the nation’s capital with nearly a foot of snow.

Except for military and emergency personnel, the 250,000 federal workers were excused from work for the second day in a row, their first weather days-off since a blizzard in January 1996, the Office of Personnel Management said.

By nightfall Tuesday the frozen white blanket coating the D.C. area had risen to 8.5 inches at Washington Reagan National Airport, which had canceled all flights during the day. Washington Dulles International Airport struggled to keep one runway open.

Snow flurries were predicted for today.

Tuesday’s weather shutdown, the ninth since 1987, cost taxpayers some $60 million in lost work, said Jon-Christopher Bua, director of communications with the personnel office.

Louis Uccelini, the National Weather Service’s winter weather expert, said that over the past 50 years there have been 28 such nor’easters that have dumped heavy snow from Washington to Boston.

Congress had only returned from its winter recess on Monday and had a light schedule, but most of that was wiped out by the snow. Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan’s testimony before the Senate Budget Committee was canceled.

Those who couldn’t make it to the office were apparently making a lot of phone calls. Bell Atlantic said so many customers were trying to make calls at the same time that it caused some congestion on the network.

Washington Mayor Anthony Williams showed up for a noon news conference in the front seat of a snow plow truck after spending most of the day riding with public works crews.

Past Washington governments have been criticized for responding poorly to snowstorms, but this time they had 200 plows and trucks clearing the streets, compared with only 30 operating during the 1996 storm.

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