Architect Retools for More Snowfall Next Week

Three-Day Storm Forces Capitol Employees to Replenish Salt Supply, Tune Up Machinery

Posted January 28, 2004 at 6:01pm

Architect of the Capitol employees, who strewed more than 400 tons of bulk salt across the 274-acre campus in recent days, are now focusing on tuning up plows and other equipment in preparation for more snowfall early next week.

In addition to conducting maintenance on their two-dozen pieces of snow-removal equipment, AOC officials are also stocking up on supplies, such as the 800 bags of “snowmelt,” a chemical de-icer, used during the three-day storm, which began Sunday.

“Most years in Washington you don’t have to worry … but you don’t have as many consecutive storms as we seem to have had the last couple of years,” said AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki.

According to the National Weather Service, approximately 6.2 inches of snow fell in the District of Columbia this month, exceeding the 5.5-inch annual average for January.

The weather service downgraded its “hazardous weather outlook” for the Baltimore-Washington region Wednesday afternoon, but was still predicting additional rain or snow for Monday and Tuesday.

Preparation is important, Malecki noted, because Congressional offices do not generally follow federal guidelines for closing offices in inclement weather.

“We only had a two-hour delay [Tuesday] and today we are open,” Malecki said Wednesday. [IMGCAP(1)]

Nonetheless, AOC officials take part in early-morning conference calls — usually about 3:30 a.m. — with other local and federal agencies, such as the Office of Personnel Management and various transportation departments, Malecki explained, “So we can make any determinations about delays or closings.”

Although AOC employees are responsible only for the Capitol grounds, she noted that some additional areas, such as nearby Stanton Park, may also be cleared by Congressional employees to provide access to the Capitol for Hill staff or lawmakers living nearby.

“Typically the order of clearing is major streets, … entrances to the House and Senate office buildings and the Capitol, and, obviously, the sidewalks to the three Metro stations” on the Hill, Malecki said. She later added: “If we’ve taken care of most of our business we try to help out where we can.”

About 50 AOC grounds personnel were assigned to remove snow and clear walkways during the past three days.

“We keep the access to the Capitol accessible as quickly as possible,” said Malecki. “When the last flakes fall we’re out there shoveling and plowing, and sanding and salting.”