Blizzard Shuts Down Federal Government

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

Washington (CNSNews.com) - A winter storm blew through the nation's capital Tuesday dumping more than six inches of snow on Capitol Hill and shutting down the federal government.

Only a few hearty souls braved the 30-mph wind gusts and slush-filled streets to staff the few congressional offices that opened for business on a day when "liberal leave" was the operative phrase.

"It's a real skeleton crew here today," a member of Sen. Paul Coverdell's (R-GA) staff told CNSNews.com. "I'd say about 90 percent stayed home. Mostly just people who live near the Capitol came in."

Among the Capitol employees to brave the icy roads and arrive at work Tuesday was Officer D.L. Murphy of the US Capitol Police Department. He told CNSNews.com that he drove in to his job at the Hart Senate Office Building from his home a few miles away in the Washington suburbs of southern Maryland.

"It took about an hour and fifteen minutes," said Murphy. He added that he is originally from Vermont and is quite used to snow. "My mom calls me when it snows down here, because she knows how it is in Washington."

Heavy snowfalls that cripple the government are nothing new to Washington. The last time a blizzard hit the city and forced the closure of federal offices was in 1995, according to US Weather Bureau statistics. That storm shut down the government for several days.

Many offices in the normally bustling Hart Senate Office Building were thinly staffed but some, such as Sen. George Voinovich's (R-OH), were almost operating as normal, although staffers were prepared to leave early if the snowfall got worse. Forcasters were predicting as much as 16 inches of snow before the storm ended. Voinovich was at the Senate working on the budget, press secretary Mike Dawson told CNSNews.com.

Another Senate office that was running almost normally was Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA). His receptionist told CNSNews.com that Specter was holding a hearing for the Medical Services subcommittee.

But other offices, such as Sen. Dan Inouye's (D-HI) were completely closed for the day. "This office is closed due to the weather conditions," read a note on Inouye's office door.