Fierce snowstorm shuts down Washington

Reporting from Washington – A ferocious blizzard, dubbed the “snowpocalypse” and “snowmageddon,” descended Friday on Washington, shutting federal offices early, closing schools and sending residents scurrying to stock up on supplies to carry them through the weekend.

Forecasters predicted 30 inches or more of snow, which would easily break the area’s all-time snowfall record of 28 inches set in 1922. The area has seen more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870, according to the National Weather Service.

There were lines that went around the block to get into some grocery stores. Hardware and liquor stores were mobbed, and many shops had already run out of items for their customers.

“I tried to stock up, but the shelves were empty,” said Beth Davies, who went to the Giant supermarket in suburban Silver Spring, Md. “There was only pig feet left” in the meat department.

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Pilot erors blamed in deadly N.Y. crash

Reporting from Washington — A series of pilot errors caused the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., last year, killing 50 people, but several common aviation industry practices may have led to the mistakes, the National Transportation Safety Board reported Tuesday.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman said the pilots’ errors showed their “complacency and confusion that resulted in catastrophe.” She said she would press the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress to change procedures.

“History is repeating itself,” Hersman told reporters during a break in an evidentiary hearing Tuesday. “There are things in this accident we’ve seen before. . . .”

“Today is Groundhog Day, and I feel like we are in that movie,” she said, referring to a 1993 film about a weatherman who repeatedly relives the same day. “We have made recommendations time after time after time. They haven’t been heeded by the FAA.”

Safety issues raised by the Buffalo accident, Hersman said, go beyond the mistakes that caused it. She noted that the crash cast a spotlight on the safety gap between major airlines and regional carriers, where lower-paid pilots are more likely to commute long distances, fly fatigued and receive inadequate training.

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