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Washington, D.C., grinds to halt ahead of storm

The forecasts of a blizzard Friday and Saturday have succeeded in shutting down the government in Washington more effectively than any partisan political fight over the federal budget.

Washington isn’t known as a hardy town when it comes to inclement weather — traffic came to a crawl on icy streets Wednesday after just an inch of snow.

But the National Weather Service and other meteorologists have this town in a near panic with predictions of as much as 2 feet of snow and winds gusting as high as 47 mph from Friday evening through Saturday night.

That’s part of the sweeping snowstorms expected to hit the entire East Coast, including Long Island.

“We have a forecast that we haven’t had in 90 years,” Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said at a news conference Friday.

“We see this as a major storm,” Bowser said. “It has life-and -death implications and all the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way.”

Every level of government — in the District of Columbia and in adjoining Maryland and Virginia — began shutting down Friday.

In a move that will keep many people home, the public transit system is suspending all service for the weekend on its buses at 5 p.m. Friday and the Metro subway at 11 p.m. The trains and buses will start running again on Monday.

All federal offices in the D.C. area closed at noon Friday; workers were told they had to leave their offices by that time, no matter what. The Capitol building also shut down.

The White House canceled all of its events Friday, including the regular briefing by press secretary Josh Earnest.

President Barack Obama went into hibernation, despite his experiences in Chicago, where the weather can be as rough as the politics.

Obama has no public schedule; press aides even sent home the small group of “pool” reporters who gather each day to cover the president’s events.

And, in a rare move, the aides told those reporters not to come in on Saturday or Sunday.

By Sunday, the storm will have passed and skies will be clear and winds will be gusty, forecasters said.

But the storm likely will leave a mess behind, with possible flooding as temperatures rise to as high as the mid-40s next week and snow melts.

Then there’s the strong likelihood of downed power lines.

Pepco, a major area utility, said in a statement that it was prepared for “the possibility of widespread outages that could take days to restore” because of delays caused by icy roads and downed trees.

Still, Congress plans to resume work in Washington on Tuesday. And Obama is scheduled to re-emerge on Monday.

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