After a holiday season marked by particularly mild temperatures, a snowstorm swept across Washington and the surrounding area on Monday, shutting down federal services and schools, stopping buses, and accentuating air traffic disruptions.
Snow-capped Capitol Dome, White House under a white blanket of flakes, skiing in the streets: at least 18 cm of snow fell on the US capital and it could go up to 25 cm, the weather services warned, placing the city as well as the neighboring state of Virginia under a winter storm alert until 4:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. GMT).
“Be prepared for snowy and slippery roads, making it difficult to travel,” they added in a bulletin.
The winter storm sweeping much of the US east coast, with high winds accompanied by heavy snowfall, could cause potential “snow storms” and “floods”, said the country’s meteorological services.
– Power cuts –
At least 440,000 homes were without power in Virginia and 76,000 in neighboring Maryland, with trees falling on power lines under the weight of snow.
The government announced Monday morning the shutdown of federal services in the city of Washington, resulting in the cancellation of the daily White House press conference, while the only vote of the day scheduled in the Senate was canceled and postponed until Tuesday. .
Faced with the elements, the city has also ordered the stop of bus traffic, as well as the closure of Covid-19 screening centers and the suspension of the distribution of rapid tests.
Many schools were also closed Monday across the Washington, Maryland and Virginia area.
“If it is not absolutely necessary that you go out, stay at home and do not take the road,” urged the mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, at a press conference, as many vehicles are. got stuck on the roads because of the snow.
President Joe Biden himself had to weather the storm when he returned to the capital after a few days of vacation in Delaware (east).
His Air Force One plane was stuck on the tarmac for thirty minutes while the staff could clear the snow on the runway, then the presidential convoy was slowed down considerably on its way to the White House.
– Chaotic air traffic –
The snowstorm also accentuated the chaos that had already reigned in air traffic in the United States for weeks because of the outbreak of contaminations due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Ronald-Reagan National Airport, Washington-Dulles Airport and Baltimore Airport had many flight cancellations, according to the Flightaware website.
Around 1:00 p.m. Monday (6:00 p.m. GMT), at least 2,700 domestic or international flights to or from the United States had been canceled, after 2,650 flights canceled on Sunday and 2,570 flights canceled on Saturday, according to the same source.
This represents more than half of the nearly 4,300 flights canceled worldwide at the same time.
The winter storm is added to the very contagious Omicron variant which prevents many pilots or members of the staff, on the air or on the ground, sick or in case of contact, from coming to work.