Washington Bracing for Snowstorm

Washington, DC is feeling the impact of Winter Storm Stella. Federal agencies are operating under a delayed arrival status today.

The Washington, DC area is experiencing the effects of Winter Storm Stella that is hitting much of the east coast.

“This promises to be one of our better (or worst, depending on how you look at it) March snowstorms of all time,” said Chuck Bell, Storm Team 4 of local NBC news affiliate in Washington. “I think everybody gets at least an inch of snow; that’s a sure thing. As far as 4″ of snow, the vast majority of the News 4 nation will get more than 4″.”

DC’s MetroAccess service has already announced that it will suspend its service starting at 4 PM Monday evening and remain suspended all day Tuesday, March 14. Metro said service will resume “when it is safe to do so; however a time for service restoration is not yet known.”

Government Status

The Office of Personnel Management has not posted any change in its operating status alert as of the time of this writing, however, it’s a safe bet that with the weather forecast and Metro already announcing a closure that federal agencies will see at least some sort of status change announced later today that affects operations tomorrow. OPM will sometimes announce a delayed arrival if not an outright closure depending on weather and traffic conditions.

OPM announced that agencies are open in Washington on Tuesday, March 14, however a 3 hour delayed arrival status is in effect. Federal employees in the affected area also have the option for unscheduled leave or telework. According to OPM:

Non-Emergency Employees who report to the office will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for up to 3 hours past their expected arrival time. In accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements (as consistent with law), non-emergency employees may notify their supervisor of their intent to use:

  • earned annual leave, compensatory time off, credit hours, or sick leave, as appropriate;
  • leave without pay;
  • their alternative work schedule (AWS) day off or rearrange their work hours under flexible work schedules; or
  • unscheduled telework (if telework-ready).

(Employees who request unscheduled leave should be charged leave for the entire workday.)

Telework-Ready Employees who are regularly scheduled to perform telework or who notify their supervisor of their intention to perform unscheduled telework must be prepared to telework for the entire workday, or take unscheduled leave, or a combination of both, for the entire workday in accordance with their agency’s policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements (as consistent with law).

Pre-approved Leave. Employees on pre-approved leave for the entire workday or employees who requested unscheduled leave for the entire workday should be charged leave for the entire day.

Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksite on time unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

OPM’s closure and dismissal procedures offer more details about what is expected of federal employees in situations such as this.

The House of Representatives is also not in session Tuesday due to the snow. “Pursuant to clause 12(c)(2) of rule I, the Speaker announces the House will convene in a pro forma session at 12 p.m. today due to the weather,” according to an announcement sent Monday afternoon from Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) office.

Washington has faced criticism in the past for closing due to snow. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), for instance, called the agencies in DC “wimps” for closing due to snow two years ago.

The Washington Times, however, has defended the snow closures, saying, among other things, that the city isn’t that well equipped to deal with significant snowfall.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.