Yesterday, WMATA shared a video of General Manager Paul Wiedefeld thanking everyone at Metro who would be working through the storm. From keeping ice and snow from building up on the tracks to moving rail cars to safe locations to cleaning up stations, there’s a lot that goes into minimizing a blizzard’s impact on the system.

WMATA dismissed all of its “non-essential” personnel at noon yesterday. According to agency spokesperson Dan Stessel, that still leaves a “small army” of over 1,000 employees and contractors working in the elements, their major goals being to keep tracks and parking lots clear and elevators and escalators running.

The power trains need to run comes from the third rail, so making sure snow and ice don’t keep it from functioning properly on the system’s 130 miles of exposed track is paramount. Employees are operating machines called Prime Movers to spray de-icer on the third rail, as well as to plow snow from the tracks.

In a short interview with NBC’s Adam Tuss, Wiedefeld explains that this work will continue through the night, but that there’s not a set time for when Metro will re-open.

This is what a Prime Mover looks like:

As of this afternoon, Metro had moved about 350 of its cars out of rail yards and into tunnels around the system in order to keep them protected from snow and wind. Train storage areas include one track in the following locations (but this list isn’t necessarily all-inclusive):

  • Ballston-Clarendon
  • Federal Center SW-Eastern Market
  • Capitol Heights-Addison
  • Navy Yard-Anacostia
  • Bethesda-Friendship Heights
  • Forest Glen-Glenmont
  • U Street-Georgia Avenue
  • Farragut North-Judiciary Square

The Metro also has about 50 above-ground stations, with plenty of escalators that are exposed to the elements (Dupont Circle’s 10-story escalator, for example). There’s also a lot of asphalt to clear, from bus bays and Kiss and Rides to parking lots and ramps. While Prime Movers are pretty advanced, there are a lot of Metro employees clearing stations with brooms, shovels, and blowers.


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Jonathan Neeley was Greater Greater Washington's staff editor from 2014-2017. He gets most everywhere by bike (or Metro when it's super nasty out), thinks the way planning decisions shape our lives is fascinating, and plays a whole lot of ultimate. He lives in Brookland.