Federal government offices closed Tuesday after 'storm of a lifetime'

Monday - 10/29/2012, 3:00pm EDT

OPM Director John Berry discusses the decision to close federal offices on "In Depth" with Francis Rose

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By Julia Ziegler and Jolie Lee

D.C.-area federal offices are again closed to the public Tuesday after Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy made landfall Monday on the East Coast, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

The rainy conditions and occasional gusts of wind Monday afternoon were "just prologue," OPM Director John Berry said in an exclusive interview on In Depth with Francis Rose before the storm had hit the D.C. region. "The worst is yet to come. ... This is a high-risk event. This is a storm of a lifetime."

As with Monday, non-emergency federal employees, including those on pre-approved paid leave, have been granted excused absences for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are:

  • required to telework,
  • on official travel outside of the D.C. area,
  • on leave without pay, or
  • on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off.

"We encourage people to stay inside, to stay safe, to stay hunkered down until this storm is passed and it is safe to come out," Berry said.

Employees who are scheduled to telework or who are required to perform unscheduled telework on a day when federal offices are closed to the public must telework the entire workday or request leave, or a combination of both, in accordance with their agencies' policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.

Emergency employees are expected to report to their worksites unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

The government technically is not shut down Tuesday since emergency personnel and teleworkers are still on duty. OPM uses the term "closed to the public" to make that distinction.

In addition to the federal government in the D.C. region, other federal buildings and services used by feds are closed Tuesday. View our full list of closures.

Tuesday not business as usual

Sandy left hundreds of thousands of Washington area homes and businesses without electricity, as well as street flooding and sewage overflow. The National Weather Service says the Potomac River is likely to experience its worst floods in 16 years in the aftermath of the storm. The river is expected to start flooding Tuesday night.

"We just cannot pretend that this could be a business-as-usual day," Berry said Monday. "We need to make sure that folks understand that this is serious and will respond accordingly."

The No. 1 goal is for federal employees to stay safe, he said.

"This is not a storm to play with," Berry said. "This is not a windy March day. This is a significant life-threatening event."

While no decision has been made about the federal government's operating status for Wednesday, OPM will factor both flooding and outages into future closure decisions, Berry said Monday.

East Coast federal buildings also close

Major metropolitan areas with a significant presence of federal employees are covered by Federal Executive Boards that have the same authority to close offices in their cities. Federal buildings in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York are closed Tuesday. However, essential personnel and teleworkers should still report to work.

Federal News Radio has contacted the remaining FEBs in the major areas along the East Coast.

Help Federal News Radio track closings

If your agency's operating status is affected by the storm, please let Federal News Radio know by email, Facebook, Twitter (use hashtag #fedclosings) or by commenting on this story. Sign up for Federal News Radio's breaking news email to be alerted if/when we learn of agency operating status changes.

Federal News Radio's Jack Moore contributed to this report

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