Mount Vernon Continues to Dig Out

Mount Vernon Continues to Dig Out

Near record Presidents Day weekend snowfall left region paralyzed.

The big dig continues, and the big meltdown is on the way.

Residents living on many of the side streets in Mount Vernon weren't able to leave their homes for several days this week. Only four-wheel drive vehicles navigated the side streets, which didn't see a snowplow until Tuesday or Wednesday, nearly five days after the big snow started.

Much of that time was spent clearing the nearly 20 inches of snow from driveways and sidewalks.

Snow began falling last Friday, and the buildup continued well into Monday, punching the George Washington Birthday celebration plans down for the count. The big parade in Old Town was canceled, as was the Birthnight Ball at the Mount Vernon Inn. Other celebrations were either canceled or postponed.

Retailers, already reeling from a sluggish economy, saw the usually profitable Presidents Day weekend shopping sprees vaporize.

Now, with warmer temperatures expected and possible rain showers coming into the area, state and local officials are worried about possible flooding conditions.

However, once the snow and freezing rain subsided Monday, crews from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reacted quickly to clear the roads this week, said VDOT spokesperson Joan Morris, as one the region’s biggest winter storms in recent memory dumped over a foot of snow in many parts of Northern Virginia.

ABOUT 1,500 TRUCKS battled the elements from the very beginning of the storm, with 40 percent of the trucks focusing on streets in residential neighborhoods.

“It was an uphill battle for us,” she said. “The crews have done a great job. Our goal all along this weekend has been to get folks to work on Tuesday.”

The department will not have estimates of the cost of the cleanup effort until later in the week, but Morris said that before last weekend’s blizzard, VDOT had already spent $50 million statewide to clear roads, about $2 million more than had been allocated for that purpose. In Northern Virginia alone, VDOT had spent $14.5 million before last weekend’s storm. Morris said the latest storm will push those figures much higher.

“It’s going to skyrocket,” she said, noting that the 1996 blizzard cost $120 million to clean up.

The higher snow-removal costs will mean that maintenance work in the spring and summer will be cut back, she added.

The county’s Public Safety Coordination Center (PSCC), which handles all 911 calls in Fairfax County, has been fielding fewer calls than usual, said Steven Singer, the assistant shift supervisor at the PSCC.

“Most people are at home where they should be,” he said.

Most of the calls have come from drivers stuck in the snow.