First responders prep for winter storm

GERMANTOWN, Md. (WJLA) - The Washington D.C. metropolitan area spent much of Martin Luther King Jr. Day bracing for Tuesday's winter storm.

Predictions of four to seven inches of snowfall have many of edge, including first responders. At all 33 Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service firehouses, there were extra items on the Monday to-do list. For instance, firefighters stocked their bright red rides with shovels and road salt.

"We end up having to shovel people's sidewalks so we can get up to their house, and get them out of their house," Capt. Dallas Lipp, a 34-year veteran firefighter said. "It's just a lot more labor-intensive when we get into inclement weather like this."

Obvious concerns include a higher call volume mixed with slick roads. MCFRS uses snow chains on its frontline vehicles to keep the costly rigs glued to the pavement. One setback - the chains limit roadway speeds to 25 miles per hour.

With greater-than-normal accumulations expected, firefighters are also concerned about snow-covered fire hydrants. MCFRS urges residents to not only shovel their driveway and sidewalks, but nearby hydrants too.

"There's a fire hydrant across from my house and I always make sure that fire hydrant is dug out. I actually dig out the one down the street too, just to be safe," Capt. Dallas Lipp added.

On the education front, all 1267 Montgomery County Public School busses will remain parked Tuesday. Superintendent Joshua Starr isn't cancelling class, but instead keeping with the school calendar. January 21 was already scheduled as a professional day for teachers. It's welcome luck for district leaders as MCPS has already utilized three of its four allocated snow days. Should it issue five or more, the Maryland State Department of Education could mandate MCPS make-up the days in June.

One predictable trend - shovels and bags of salt flying-off store shelves. At the Home Depot along Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg, a traffic jam of shopping carts, most filled to the brim.

"I'm trying to get as many as I can here," landscaper Henry Collins remarked while grasping a cart stocked with $300 in snow shovels. "It's gold falling through the air for a man like me."

In the parking lot, Rockville restaurant owner Bob Liu loaded the back of his white Ford van with salt bags. For Liu, it's a wintertime necessity to ensure his customers stay safe on the sidewalk leading to his front door.

"Eight bags of it! It's a lot yeah. I heard on the radio it's going to be 3-5 inches tomorrow," Liu said.

ABC7 Chief Meteorologist Doug Hill says Tuesday’s storm system will stretch from Richmond to the Northeast. Accumulation will be a soft dry snow with frigid temperatures, hindering many forms of road treatment. Metro-area snowfall will begin by mid-morning, with four to seven inches expected in the most-populated areas.