WASHINGTON — As the fourth powerful winter storm of the season closed in on Washington, the beleaguered region surrendered to the force of nature, shutting down governments and schools — some until next week — as the forecast Tuesday night called for a foot more of snow and gale-force winds that threaten to topple trees and take down power lines.
With equipment and road crews strained to the breaking point, salt and public patience were running short. When it's all over, probably this afternoon, the immense weight of the 3 or more feet of snow piled on rooftops since Friday is expected to cause more to collapse. More people are likely to find themselves in unheated, dark houses.
"We expect increasingly gusty winds peaking toward midday and early afternoon. Trees and power lines will come down," said meteorologist Dan Stillman of the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang.
The mood in the winter-weary region turned sullen and resigned as the storm approached, prompting the closure of schools, local governments and federal offices for a third day. If the big snow here in December felt like an adventure, the bombardment since then has begun to feel like purgatory.
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The snow started in the Midwest before moving into the Mid-Atlantic region, where utility workers struggled to restore power already knocked out by a weekend blizzard.
Schools were closed and commuters found slick, slushy roads from Minneapolis and Chicago to Louisville, Ky. Hundreds of flights were canceled in Chicago as the storm moved across Illinois, where up to 10 inches were forecast.
New York City announced schools would have a rare snow day today, only the third in six years. Most flights were being canceled at Philadelphia's airport after 8 p.m. Tuesday, and Washington's airports expected flights to stop around 5 p.m.
Continental Airlines canceled all 400 of its flights today at Newark Liberty Airport, as well as several hundred more regional flights on affiliate airlines.