Federal Times Blogs

OPM downgrades snow losses, but do estimates hold water?

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berry 1 small jpgOffice of Personnel Management Director John Berry yesterday officially downgraded the government’s estimates of its per-day losses during last month’s snowstorms. Instead of  losing $102 million per day, Berry now says the government only lost $71 million per day. But there is reason to take those calculations with a grain of salt.

Berry first threw out the $102 million daily loss estimate during a December press conference on snow closure procedures. That was a rough, back-of-the-envelope calculation of the total daily payroll for all 270,000 federal employees in the Washington area, and assumed total losses in productivity.

That estimate was clearly too high. The government didn’t entirely shut down, even if the empty streets made it appear so. Emergency workers still had to show up – the National Weather Service, for example, rose to the occasion and worked around the clock. And there were some telework success stories at places like DISA and the Patent and Trademark Office.

However, quantifying the actual success of telework is much trickier.

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Federal government to open two hours late Friday

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The Office of Personnel Management just announced the federal government will open under a two-hour delay on Friday. Anyone who can’t make it into work can take unscheduled leave.

If you get to work any more than two hours late, you’ll be charged annual leave or leave without pay for the additional period of absence. But if you take unscheduled leave, you’ll be charged leave for the entire day — you won’t get the same two hours’ grace period other feds will get.

If you telework or are an emergency employee, you’ve got to start working on time.

OPM Director John Berry also issued a statement this evening that stressed most of the government is still operating, and many Washington-area feds are getting their jobs done through teleworking. Full statement after the jump:

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DC closed for business

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Weather conditions in the Washington area have gotten so bad that the City of Alexandria has suspended plowing the streets until further notice.

According to this handy real-time snow removal tracking map, road conditions on many streets in the District of Columbia are worsening as well.

FedLine hopes that all you emergency feds who had to report to work today made it to your destination safely. For the rest of you, it’s best to stay off the roads until this storm passes.


Of snowstorms and telework

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OPM director John Berry has talked a lot about expanding federal telework programs — and it occurs to me that this week gives him a perfect opportunity to evangelize. Today is the second consecutive snow day for the federal government, and if tonight’s forecast is accurate, tomorrow might well be the third.

Each snow day costs the federal government $100 million — possibly more during this blizzard, because I’m sure some feds will just take the rest of the week off and give themselves a “snowcation.”

But many telecommuters are expected to work today, according to OPM — even though their physical-commuting colleagues are not. No lost productivity there. So don’t be surprised if Berry cites this blizzard in the future — a lot — while he’s talking about telework.

DC doesn’t get many snowstorms like this one, of course, but we usually get a few snow days each year — and if telework programs could reduce that $100 million in lost productivity, there’s a big potential long-term savings for the federal government.

(Plus, expanded telework would make our jobs easier: It’s tough being journalists who cover the federal government when the federal government is closed!)

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Federal government closed Tuesday

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The Office of Personnel Management announced the federal government will once again be closed tomorrow in Washington. This will be the second snow day in a row, and the third this winter. This screenshot at data.gov announcing the closure is apparently all that is left of OPM’s decimated Web site.

The National Weather Service is forecasting more snow — anywhere from 10 to 20 inches — beginning Tuesday afternoon. That forecast, combined with the still-lousy conditions on many roads in the Washington area, led OPM Director John Berry to close the government. OPM hasn’t yet made any decisions on Wednesday. But considering that tomorrow’s winter storm warning is scheduled to run through Wednesday evening, it’s not looking good.

EDIT: Hat tip to Ben Bowman, a producer at Chicago’s NBC5 and proprietor of Ben’s Breakfast Blog, who made this awesome Snowmageddon video last year:

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Snowmageddon III: 10 to 20 inches Tuesday?

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GSA may have to add tauntauns to the federal fleet. And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.

GSA may have to add tauntauns to the federal fleet if this keeps up. And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.

Washington weather predictions are getting worse and worse. The National Weather Service just issued a winter storm warning — which replaces the previous winter storm watch and means they’re pretty sure it’s happening — that says we’re looking at 10 to 20 inches of snow beginning Tuesday at noon. Temperatures are expected to drop from near-freezing into the upper 20s Tuesday night, and the winter storm warning is scheduled to last until Wednesday at 7 p.m.

This is a marked increase from this morning’s predictions of six inches or so. NWS warns that “The combination of snow and strong winds will make travel very hazardous.” As Han Solo said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

The Office of Personnel Management hasn’t made its decision yet on the federal government’s operating status for tomorrow.

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Federal government closed Monday

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The Office of Personnel Management announced this evening that the federal government will be closed on Monday. OPM’s Web site was completely crashed for a while due to the onslaught of people checking on the status, but is now back up. Here’s the details:

  • Emergency employees must show up for work on time.
  • Nonemergency employees (including employees on preapproved leave) will have an excused absence for the number of hours they were scheduled to work.
  • Telework employees may have to work from their home or other prearranged telework site.
  • Employees on alternative work schedules who were already scheduled to have tomorrow off are not entitled to another AWS day off.

In other Snowmageddon news:

  • Washington’s Metro is currently running only in underground tunnels — no above-ground tracks. Metro buses are not operating today.
  • Virginia Railway Express trains will not be running Monday, and they aren’t even sure they’ll operate on Tuesday either. VRE said it will make that decision by 6 p.m. tomorrow.
  • More snow could be coming Tuesday. The National Weather Service this afternoon issued a winter storm watch that says we could get five or more additional inches of snow beginning Tuesday afternoon and running into Wednesday afternoon.
  • And FedLine ain’t trying to brag or nothing, but we just wanted to point out that we said back in December that Snowmageddon was a much better name than Snowpocalypse. And it looks like President Obama agrees:
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