Capitol Officials Struggle With Snow Accumulations

Posted February 10, 2010 at 12:27pm

Congressional officials struggled Wednesday with what to do with all the snow accumulating around the Capitol and how to prepare the campus for the possible return of staffers Thursday morning.

“It’s a question of what do you do with 10 tons of snow when you have a 5-ton bag,” said Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer. Snow had piled up so high in some parts of the Hill, he added, that the landscape was almost ideal for “skis, bobsleds and sleds.”

But Architect of the Capitol employees were working nonstop to clear pathways and roads. By Wednesday afternoon, they had been able to clear about 80 percent of Congress’ parking spaces — and Gainer said it was still unclear if the remaining 20 percent would be ready for Members and staffers on Thursday.

Offices, he said, should consider operating with fewer employees on Thursday in anticipation of not just parking issues but also traffic problems city-wide.

“The doors being open is the easiest part,” Gainer said. “The challenge right now is low visibility and ability of the AOC team to move snow in those conditions.”

House and Senate services were again very limited on Wednesday. But along with AOC employees, Capitol Police officers were also working around the clock. The department functioned on a holiday schedule, closing unnecessary doors but keeping hundreds of officers on campus to guard Congressional buildings.

Police officials have reserved about 50 hotel rooms for officers Wednesday night. But Gainer said many have been able to make it to their shifts from home, and the number of officers canceling their shifts has been minimal.

“There’s no shortage of officers on the street,” he said.