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Snow Storm Slows Down Loudoun

Six inches of snow closes school for two days.

Public schools closed two days as last week’s storm dumped six inches of snow on the mid-Atlantic states up to New England, while offices for the public schools and Loudoun County government opened both days. The storm brought the county's first snowfall for the season, leaving snow clinging to branches and roofs and thick blankets of it on the streets and sidewalks.

“We want to keep our government open as much as we can,” said County Administrator Kirby Bowers. Bowers made the decision early Thursday morning after emergency-service providers called with an assessment of the county’s road, weather and other conditions. “We try to make a collective decision as a region so we can coordinate efforts.”

AT ABOUT 12 a.m., Thursday, a low-pressure system developing over a jetstream brought in moisture from the ocean, according to the National Weather Service. The moisture turned into snow, with temperatures leveling out in the low 20s through most of the day. The storm left 6.2 inches of snow at the Washington Dulles International Airport and 6.5 inches in Leesburg, according to the weather service.

Bowers gave county employees the option to use liberal leave status if they could not get to work due to road conditions or wanted to stay home with their children. They could use a vacation day or exchange overtime hours.

“The various offices are staffed, but we do have some people who stayed home,” said Jim Barnes, director of public information, adding, “Usually for the government offices, things slow down because not as many people are coming in.”

The Office of Transportation Services kept the commuter buses in downtown Washington, D.C., Thursday in case the federal government offices closed early. Eighty percent of passengers on the buses are federal employees, said John Clark, director of transportation services.

THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION closed the county’s 56 schools Thursday and Friday, using up two of the five snow days allotted for the school year. The public schools in the metropolitan-Washington, D.C. area were closed Thursday and some remained closed Friday.

“People have to realize Loudoun County is two different counties essentially,” said Wayde Byard, public information officer for the Public Schools. He referred to the suburbs in eastern Loudoun and the highlands in western Loudoun, which have a higher elevation, colder temperatures and more snow than the eastern end of the county.

“Route 7 and the major roads are clear, but the back roads aren’t in good shape,” Byard said about why schools remained closed again Friday. “Safety is the No. 1 consideration, absolutely.”

School offices remained open both days to allow staff to work on administrative assignments. “It’s kind of a catch-up day for us,” Byard said.

With the schools closed, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office could send regularly staffed school resource officers and officers from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program out onto patrol. The officers, along with community police officers, added another 20 deputies to Loudoun’s streets Thursday.

THE SHERIFF'S Office responded to 54 vehicle accidents during the day, the majority of them weather-related. The office handled more than half, or 26, of the calls by 11:30 a.m., compared to three accidents by 11 a.m. Friday.

“Overall, it went pretty well. Most people heeded police advice and left their house if they absolutely had to,” said Kraig Troxell, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office. “I think that’s the reason there were only a few problems on the roadway.”

Troxell said the only problem area Thursday was on Route 659 near Ticonderoga Road southwest of South Riding. The roadway was shut down from 8-8:30 a.m. following several accidents and disabled vehicles in the area.