- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2000

Washington-area residents battled another major winter storm yesterday, as snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain fell all afternoon, leaving some residents without power and causing major flight delays at local airports.

Road crews in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia were working well into the night, spreading salt, sand and, in some cases, liquid calcium chloride to melt the sheet of ice on roads and bridges.

"With ice, it's much tougher to clean and much more treacherous for drivers," said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation. "Things can get pretty nasty out there."

Most school systems announced they would be closed today. There was no word by 10 p.m. on whether the D.C. and federal governments would be open.

Meanwhile, crews worked around the clock to restore electricity to customers.

Irene Cimino, a Virginia Power spokeswoman, said about 177,000 customers had lost power by 9 p.m., mostly in the Richmond area.

Virginia Power crews and additional line contractors and tree trimmers were working to restore service.

Potomac Electric Power Co. said 2,500 customers were without power at 8 p.m., 2,400 of them in Fort Washington because of a downed tree.

The storm also caused flight delays and cancellations at the area's three major airports.

Cleaning crews shut down one runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport twice as they removed snow and ice. At Washington Dulles International, only one runway was open all day, said Tom Sullivan, a spokesman with the Washington Airports Authority.

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, numerous arrivals and departures were canceled or delayed. Officials shut down two main runways for two hours to remove snow.

As predicted, snow began falling sporadically shortly after daybreak yesterday, before changing to a mix of snow and freezing rain by early afternoon.

Most suburbs in the north and west of the District were pummeled by snow and freezing rain, while areas to the south and east of the city got mostly rain and sleet, said Jim Travers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Dulles airport reported 6.8 inches of snow at 8 p.m., Reagan National had 8.5 inches of snow and ice, and BWI had 3 inches of snow and ice.

Elsewhere, Columbia, Md., had 3.3 inches of snow; Gaithersburg, Md., 6 inches of snow; Fairfax City, Va., 4 inches of snow; Leesburg, Va., 7 inches of snow; the District, 3 inches of snow and ice; and Great Falls, Va., 4.5 inches of snow.

Skies were starting to clear by 10 p.m. as the storm moved toward New England.

"It won't be a storm here on Monday morning," Mr. Travers said. "We'll be dealing with the residue, and that could be very treacherous."

Police reported several traffic accidents throughout the day and evening, but none serious. Overall, few drivers braved the bad road conditions and heeded meteorologists' advice to stay home.

Many gladly stayed home to watch the Super Bowl game from Atlanta, which was hit hard by the same storm.

David Moors was happy to be "iced in" at his Rockville, Md., home.

"You can't go anywhere and you can't really do anything because you can't get out," he said. "So all you have left is watch the Super Bowl. That's a perfect night for me."

The storm originated in the Midwest last week, dumping up to 17 inches of snow in Oklahoma before making its way to Virginia. On the way, the storm left behind up to a foot of snow in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee before stalling near the Alabama-Georgia line.

The storm warning for the Washington area began late Saturday, prompting residents to prepare for what would be the region's second major snowstorm in a week.

And most took it in stride.

"We knew this was coming, so we were ready for it," said Malcolm Johnson of Fairfax. "We decided this storm wasn't going to let us down and prevent us from having a nice day off. There's really nothing we can do at this point but just deal with it."

At the same time, the Virginia Department of Transportation's fleet of 900 snowplow and salt trucks were busy cleaning and de-icing Northern Virginia's 15,000 mile of lanes, Ms. Morris said.

By 4 p.m., the crews had treated all major highways and some neighborhood streets at least once.

The crews were to begin cleaning all residential streets after the storm moved out of the area.

"Fortunately we're not fighting traffic," Ms. Morris said. "So that means we will be out here all night."

Across the Potomac River, about 1,600 snowplows and sand trucks were out in full force in Maryland. But state officials said it would take some time for the salt to start melting the ice.

"Freezing rain forms a slick glare on the road that salt isn't going to start working on immediately," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, a spokeswoman for Maryland's State Highway Administration.

The District mobilized 119 salt trucks and snowplows to clean the city streets overnight, said Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

"We're closely following the storm and we will continue to spread salt and plow the roads until conditions warrant a change," she said.

And unlike last Tuesday's snow, yesterday's white stuff might not stick around too long.

Mr. Travers said the area will begin to see a "February thaw" today as temperatures climb into the high 30s under sunny skies. And by midweek highs should reach the upper 40s.

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