D.C. area prepares for deep freeze

(WJLA) - It’s normally snow storms that make Washington D.C. sit up and take notice – but within the next 12 hours, it will be an arctic blast that will be getting all the attention.

Schools in Montgomery County stayed open on Monday, but officials across the region are still determining whether students will stay home on this upcoming frigid Tuesday.

"Our buses are heated. Our schools are heated. Now if we have widespread instances where heating systems weren't working, we would take that into consideration," said Dana Tofig with Montgomery County Public Schools.

Motorists took no chances, as they headed into local businesses on Monday to get their vehicles prepared for the weather.

"We've seen a lot of customers come in for windshield wiper fluid top-offs, coolant top-offs, just making sure their vehicles are up to par," said Jiffy Lube manager Mark Blizzard.

Some like Rolando Merino have to be able to get to work tomorrow -- regardless of the weather:

"I make sure that my anti-freeze is always good and up to date and that there's enough oil in there -- just in case it freezes," he said while waiting at Jiffy Lube.

Meanwhile, Viva Goettinger is making sure her daughter will be warm enough when she returns to school tomorrow:

"I think it's important to have the right gear because otherwise she'll just go out in her flip flops."

And they’ve sold out of a lot of cold weather gear at this Hudson Trail Outfitters in Northwest D.C.

"Face masks, neck gaiters -- by the end of today I will most certainly be sold out of all hand-warmers and toe-warmers," said store manager Heather Lawler-Sears.

In Virginia, Lulu Wheeler is opening the cabinets under the bathroom sink, getting her Alexandria home ready for the arctic blast of cold air that will send temperatures plunging tonight.

"We've verified what pipes are close to the outside -- we are going to make sure the cabinets are open tonight so the indoor heat can get under the cabinets to make sure those pipes are kept warmer; the basement door will be left open so we can make sure anything downstairs is kept warm," she described.

Wheeler even has plumber Patrick Leake checking the pipes. Leake and his Roto-Rooter colleagues have been busy as the up-and-down temperatures have taken a toll on people’s plumbing. He says that preventing a frozen or busted pipe can be as simple as running water:

"When it gets really cold they can have one of the faucets -- bathroom or kitchen -- with a trickle running through so they can prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting."

When you leave for work on Tuesday, we know it’s going to be dangerously cold – but Metro says to expect buses and trains to run as scheduled.

Although the extreme temperature drop can cause cracking in the metal rails the trains run on, Robert Troup, Metro’s Deputy General Manager for Rail Operations, says:

"We station crews throughout the system to very quickly respond to it; additionally, we keep our third rail heaters on and our switch heaters on during the period of time."

Earlier on Monday ahead of the big chill, crews along the Dulles Greenway checked road temperatures, focusing on bridges and overpasses to make sure none of Monday morning's rain left behind hazardous slick spots.

In Loudoun County, schools were quiet again Monday after freezing rain overnight added to the problems of slush and ice covered secondary roads. Salt trucks treated the streets ahead of the deep freeze.

"Everybody is going to be very cold," said Brian Ruiz, a Maryland resident who used to live in Chicago. "They're going to wear like six layers. Wear your face mask in case you can't handle the cold."

In Arlington, the county plans to keep this emergency shelter open all day Monday and Tuesday. Officials are urging anyone who has no where else to go to use the shelters and get out of what could be record breaking cold.