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Region readies for winter weather

Thursday - 12/1/2011, 3:01pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Snowmageddon. The Commute from Hell.

The last two years have featured treacherous weather in the D.C. region that's spawned not only nicknames but traffic snarls, power outages and fury at Old Man Winter himself (not to mention the federal government.)

But with today marking the start of meteorological winter, area transportation departments say they're ready for the season's worst.

D.C.'s Department of Public Works says it now has contracts in place for heavy equipment that will help city crews clear large amounts of snow, which was a big problem during the back-to-back blizzards of 2010 that led President Barack Obama and others to dub the storms "Snowmageddon."

The District's snow team is made up of more than 700 members and nearly 250 pieces of equipment, and was deployed 20 times during last year's snow season. Find out more about DPW's snow removal system here.

In Virginia, state Department of Transportation spokesperson Tamara Rollison says they've set aside more money for treating and plowing this year, thanks to the flakes that have fallen during the last two.

"The snow budget...for this winter is $126 million -- that's a $20 million increase over last year's budget because we've had heavier than predicted snowfalls over the last two years," Rollison says.

VDOT also is urging people to stay off the roads when bad weather threatens. Rollison adds now is the time for motorists to stock up on emergency supplies to stow in the car in case they get stranded.

"You may be in your car when a storm hits, it's just a situation you can't help," she says. "This is the time to prepare yourself."

Click here for more winter weather tips from VDOT.

In Maryland, meanwhile, the State Highway Administration has unveiled a new tool to fight heavy snowfall this season: The "tow plow" can clear two lanes in one pass.

A standard dump truck with a plow costs $150,000. The tow plow attachment costs $86,000, or about 57 percent of the cost of a second truck.

And as for the feds? They've rolled out changes to their snow policy to help avoid any more anti-government angst.

WTOP's Michelle Basch contributed to this report. Follow Michelle and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)