Published February 08, 2010
WASHINGTON -- A $20 cab ride to the airport skyrocketed to the "snow rate" of $100 in the nation's capital, and those travelers who could get to the airport or train station still had to haggle or wait in long lines to escape the snowbound Mid-Atlantic.
The most pressing matter: get out before another foot or more of snow comes Tuesday.
"I'm done with city, urban snow life," said Chris Vaughan, a Washington resident who was able to re-book a flight to go skiing in Utah. He dodged the pricey cab fare by having a friend drop him off at the airport -- in exchange for a bottle of wine.
The region had nearly 3 feet of snow in some areas. One scientist said if all the snow 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 ewach need just a little more than nine inches to give the cities their snowiest winters since 1884, the first year records were kept.
Meteorologists predicted the snow would start Tuesday afternoon and continue into Wednesday. Between 12 and 18 inches was forecast for Philadelphia, the nation's sixth-largest city and a travel hub -- which could cause a ripple effect of travel problems for the rest of the Northeast. Airlines warned travelers more flights would be canceled, and the new storm was expected to hit a wider area, affecting New York and Boston.
Sharon Lewis of Bowie, Md., was desperate to spend time with family in Trinidad. She bargained for an hour and got a flight to New York's LaGuardia Airport. But it came with caveat, she would then would have to drive across town in rush hour traffic to make a connecting flight at John F. Kennedy airport within an hour.
"I don't know how that's going to happen," she said. "It'll be a disaster."
On Craigslist, owners of four-wheel drive vehicles were selling rides to residents in northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs. One classified ad read: "Stay safe on icy streets -- 4x4 Tahoe available."
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.
Others prepared for yet another storm.
"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 Philadelphia supermarket. "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."
The storm 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.
The snowbound U.S. Senate met for a few minutes Monday to recess for 24 hours.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, wearing a V-neck sweater over his usual shirt and tie, said it was difficult to make it to work because many of the streets were still not clear and the subway system was running on a limited basis. Virginia Democrat Mark Warner gaveled the chamber in and out of session. The third senator present was newly sworn in Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown.
In Falls Church, Va., a Washington suburb, Jeff Patmore, 43, was digging out his Jeep. 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."
Officials say it will be several days before they know just how much the cleanup will cost. Maryland had already spent $50 million of the $60 million budgeted to keep the snow clear. In D.C., officials said they were over their $6.2 million snow budget even before the storm started. And Pennsylvania officials said they had already spent half of their $245 million winter operations budget before the storm hit. In West Virginia, these storms may prove to be a budget buster.
Before the first flake even fell, the state had spent about 72 percent of its $54 million snow and ice removal budget, or roughly $39 million, according to division spokesman Brent Walker.
"Seventy-two percent sounds like a lot, especially when the season lasts through March," he said.