HAGERSTOWN, Md. — After pummeling the nation's midsection with heavy snow, a late-winter storm made its way Wednesday to the nation's capital, where residents braced for the possibility of power outages.
As the storm closed in, the federal government said its offices in the Washington, D.C., area would be closed Wednesday. Many major school systems around Washington and Baltimore announced pre-emptive closures as well.
Officials said outages were the biggest potential problem from the storm, which was expected to dump 5 to 11 inches of snow in Washington and Baltimore by Wednesday night. Minor tidal flooding was possible along the Delaware coast, the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Potomac River, the National Weather Service said.
Already, the storm has been dubbed a "snowquester." The nickname is a play on the D.C. wonk term "sequester," used to describe the $85 billion that must be cut from federal budgets over the next six months after President Barack Obama and lawmakers failed to reach a deal to reduce the national deficit. The "snowquester" has shut down government offices just as the budget cuts threaten to do.
Maryland Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ed McDonough reported no major incidents as of Wednesday morning. There were about 600 power outages statewide as the conditions were worsening in parts of Maryland.
The State Highway Administration said it expected the snow to intensify during the day, adding to accumulations the agency measured Wednesday morning at about 7 inches in Keysers Ridge in the western Maryland mountains and 2 to 3 inches in central Maryland.
"We're urging folks not to travel today and to leave the driving to our professional snow plow drivers," highway agency spokeswoman Lora Rakowski said.
Areas north and west of Washington and Baltimore had been seeing snow since about 3 a.m. The metropolitan region and communities to the south and east had a wet, wintry mix of precipitation.
By early Wednesday, wet snow was falling in the Washington area. It was accumulating on the grass in some areas, but not on the streets as temperatures hovered above freezing. The worst of the storm was expected to arrive by midday.