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2/11/2010
11:03 AM
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Snowed In, Feds Phone, Tweet, And Shovel

Federal agencies in Washington, D.C., are closed for the fourth consecutive day, forcing many government officials and staff to turn to the Web and other tools to communicate.

With the nation's capital paralyzed for a fourth consecutive day as a result of record snow accumulation, government workers in Washington, D.C., are using e-mail, phone calls, the Web, and Twitter to get things done, often from home offices.

Federal offices in Washington have been closed all week after a weekend storm delivered up to 30 inches of snow in the area, followed by blizzard conditions on Wednesday that dropped another foot of snow. According to the Office of Personnel and Management, government office closures are costing about $100 million a day in lost productivity, with a majority of the 270,000 federal workers in the DC area forced to stay home.

Government personnel flooded the OPM's Web site, OPM.gov, early in the week as they tried to determine whether they should head into the office. The OPM site was down at one point, according to some reports and Twitter users. OPM eventually redirected site traffic to manage the load.

The FCC and other federal agencies have been forced to cancel scheduled meetings during the week, but senior government officials are doing their best to conduct "business as usual" despite conditions that caused Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to issue a statement on Wednesday urging the public to "heed the warnings" of local officials along the East Coast and stay off the roads. Earlier in the week, Martha Johnson, the new administrator of the General Services Administration, was sworn into office by phone, and federal CIO Vivek Kundra held a teleconference with journalists to discuss the federal IT budget for fiscal 2011.

Others used Twitter to get information out and to share anecdotes about coping with the weather, using hash tags such as "snowverkill," "snowOMG," and "snowpacolypse." The OPM is using its Twitter account (Twitter.com/opmfeed) to notify federal employees of DC shutdown and related developments.

Programmer Ryan Ozimek developed an impromptu Web site called SnowmageddonCleanup.com where DC area residents could identify situations in need of help using Google Maps to pinpoint locations. Incidents ranged from people in need of a shovel to icy walkways.

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