First snow of the season: Did OPM make the right call?

This story was updated Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 9:20 a.m. to include comment from the Office of Personnel Management.

On the first snow of the 2014-2015 winter season, the Office of Personnel Management decided to keep federal agencies open but give employees the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. The agency announced the decision around 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said the decision allowed “maximum flexibility” for Washington, D.C., area employees.

“While we don’t expect a major impact for employees working their way in this morning, we want to ensure they have the flexibilities they need to plan for safe commutes,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

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Some federal employees commended OPM for announcing the operating status early.

The poll in this story is no longer available.

“Thanks for letting us early risers and long distance commuters know well in advance before hitting the snowy pavement. Good call OPM!!” Cathy O’Neal Christensen wrote.

“Early announcement also help those who have to leave home really early. I get up at 3:45,” Dave Chic Chicchirichi Jr. said.

A number of federal employees, however, said they thought OPM made the wrong call.

“Bad decision making putting so many at risk. The fact that it’s the first major snowfall of the year, taking place during rush hour, should have been taken into account. A delay would have been wise as roads are dangerous. Follow PG County and change your decision and do the right thing,” Leslie Anne Leviton commented on OPM’s Facebook page.

“Bad call. My agency doesn’t give the option to telework. Ever. 2 hour delay would have been ideal. Roads are AWFUL! 31 minutes to go 7 miles with 21 miles to go,” Jessica Haritos said.

“Dropped the ball again OPM. Should [have] had a 2 hour delay. Our car pool is still making the treacherous journey. Better luck next time,” Jimmy Stallings wrote.

Original weather reports predicted 1 to 2 inches of snow for the region, with a winter weather advisory between 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. Later in the morning, revised forecasts bumped the potential snowfall up to 4 to 6 inches, according to WTOP’s live weather blog.

Federal News Radio emailed OPM around 11 a.m. Tuesday, asking the agency if it regretted its operating status decision, and what the protocol is for changing a decision. OPM responded with a statement nearly identical to Katherine Archuleta’s statement from earlier that morning.

“We continuously monitor each event and we consider whether to change the government’s operating status as conditions warrant,” an OPM spokesperson wrote.

Jenn DuBois commented with the screenshot below, showing traffic and accidents in the D.C. region around 7 a.m.

“Seems like a delayed arrival was a much better fit than throwing everyone on the roads during rush hour / prime snow time,” Steven W Daters said.

“Roads were not well treated in Fairfax county. Orange line is running, but slowly. Also side walks are slick around the metro station,” Sabrina Sternschuss said.

“There are several accidents already; cars spinning around, going into ditches — it’s extremely slick out there with hazardous driving conditions. NBC4 is advising that it’s very treacherous without four-wheel drive. Just because it’s not a six-inch snowfall doesn’t mean it’s not unsafe,” Lillianne Garrett wrote around 7 a.m.

At 8:20 a.m., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) put all metrobuses on moderated snow plan routes.

Tell us what you think. Did OPM make the right call? Take our poll, and comment on this story.

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