- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

The winter storm that had residents crowding into grocery stores and gas stations in preparation was late in arriving yesterday but eventually became an imposing afternoon guest — causing widespread delays, traffic accidents and canceled flights and closing much of the region before nightfall.

As much as 5 inches of snow blanketed the metropolitan area by late afternoon, when the storm moved into the Atlantic.

Western Maryland saw the most accumulation in the region’s first major snowfall of the year with up to 8 inches.

“We are still expecting a few flurries in the morning hours,” said Jackie Hale of the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

However, the bigger concern will be temperatures in the 20s and wind gusts of up to 40 mph.

Forecasters initially predicted up to 10 inches in the Washington area as the storm roared in from the Midwest. Storm warnings were posted from Wisconsin to New England, where as much as 20 inches and blizzard conditions were expected.

The D.C. Department of Transportation had more than 180 snow vehicles clearing and treating streets by 9 a.m., and crews were expected to remain on duty through last night and today, spokesman Bill Rice said.

“We are very conscious of the Monday rush hour,” he said.

Police reported dozens of traffic accidents, but had no official numbers.

The most serious accident occurred about 11:30 a.m. in Montgomery County, where a Ride On bus skidded into a bus shelter at New Hampshire Avenue and Merwood Drive, injuring a 70-year-old Pennsylvania man.

The bus was slowing down for a traffic light when its rear end hit the structure, police said. The man, hit by parts of the falling shelter, was hospitalized in fair condition.

At least three deaths, all in Ohio, were attributed to the storm. A man died after falling through ice on a pond. Two others died of apparent heart attacks while removing snow, authorities said.

The early predictions of a major accumulation sent residents rushing to buy groceries Friday evening.

The Giant Food store in the Brentwood neighborhood of the District had plenty of food and water on the shelves, but many shoppers had to wait in line about 45 minutes to check out. Some passed the time by skimming magazines from the racks and joking about the “snow snacks” in their carts.

At the Whole Foods market in Logan Circle, checkout lines stretched to the back in the morning. The store offered plenty of food, but was short-handed because employees were having trouble getting to work.

By midday, many residents had grown tired of the hype and preparations and decided to go out and enjoy the weather.

Dan Jianu, 28, of Cleveland Park, went to Meridian Hill Park on 16th Street NW for a game of football with friends.

“It’s more fun. It’s easier to fall down and easier to dive and catch the ball,” Mr. Jianu said. “I just love the snow. I love to get wet and then go inside and have a cigar and a scotch.”

About a dozen customers stood in line waiting to rent a movie or three at a Blockbuster video store at 17th and P streets NW during the afternoon. More than 30 lined up inside a Crofton outlet earlier in the day.

An employee at Video Americain on 18th Street NW said the store was so busy that he had no time to talk.

The NFL championships today are likely to send even the most casual of fans to sports bars to watch games on TV. But the true fans came out yesterday.

Jim Madden, owner of the Crystal City Sports Pub in Arlington, said the bar and restaurant had about 50 or 60 customers in the afternoon, with most watching basketball games between No. 5 Oklahoma State and Baylor University, and Iowa vs. Purdue.

“We expect to get some good numbers for the North Carolina game,” he said.

The snow didn’t prevent President Bush and wife Laura from leaving the White House last night to attend the Alfalfa Club dinner, the annual gathering of political and business leaders for humorous speechifying.

Several White House staffers, including chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., also turned out for the black-tie dinner at the Capital Hilton Hotel. The event was closed to news coverage.

Earlier, before heavy snow began falling, the president took a mountain bike ride on the grounds of a Secret Service training facility in Beltsville.

Mr. Bush was scheduled to fly today to the Camp David presidential retreat in Catoctin, Md., and remain there until tomorrow afternoon.

Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said more than 1,200 salt trucks and plows treated and removed snow throughout Northern Virginia.

She said crews started arriving at midnight and were ready by 8 a.m. and that trucks waited along major roads for the snowfall.

“Our goal is to make all of the roads passable by Monday morning’s rush hour,” Miss Morris said.

Sgt. Rob Moroney, spokesman for the Maryland State Police, described road conditions as “sloppy but passable.”

Authorities temporarily closed parts of the Capital Beltway in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to run four snow plows in a row, scraping from shoulder to shoulder.

Most accidents were minor and occurred when motorists drove too fast for conditions, Sgt. Moroney said last night.

Robert L. Flanagan, Maryland’s secretary of transportation, said 2,100 workers with 1,900 pieces of snow-removal equipment were on the roads by the time the storm peaked about 3:30 p.m.

“During the most intense period, we were not able to keep up with the snow, but we kept working on it, and now have the situation under control,” Mr. Flanagan said early last evening. “We had 4 inches in two hours, which is pretty intense.”

Crews were scheduled to work through the night to clear highways, ramps and shoulders. State roads were passable throughout the storm, despite isolated spots of ice and accumulated snow, Mr. Flanagan said.

“We’ve had temperatures 18 and 20 degrees throughout the day,” he said. “The salt is not as effective at those temperatures.”

A snow emergency remained in effect last night in the District. Vehicles parked or disabled on streets designated as snow emergency routes were subject to a $250 fine and towing.

Metro reported no major delays with the subway system’s normal Saturday service. Agency crews early yesterday pre-treated parking areas at stations and put de-icing units in stations and aboard cars on all lines.

Metro employees worked even if they were scheduled to be off. Some put heater tape on the electrified third rail to keep it from icing. Others treated train motors to resist snow damage.

The transit agency used a new system, putting de-icing equipment in the front cars of certain trains during Wednesday’s snowfall and again yesterday.

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Tom Sullivan said two major carriers at Washington Dulles International Airport — United and Independence airlines — had cut back to about 30 percent of scheduled flights.

United canceled all flights out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Delta and Northwest airlines also canceled flights there.

Mr. Sullivan said clearing the main runways caused delays.

Northwest issued a weather waiver for the District, Maryland, Virginia and 10 other Northeastern states for travelers with tickets for yesterday and today. Passengers can reschedule flights through Wednesday with no penalties or administrative fees.

Students usually are excited about snow because it may mean no school. But yesterday was bittersweet for some because SAT tests were canceled after months of study.

Arlington County and Prince William County public schools were among those that canceled the tests. Montgomery County public schools held the tests from 8 a.m. to noon, but cancelled all activities after 1 p.m., schools spokesman Brian K. Edwards said.

In Damascus in upper Montgomery County, snow fell steadily all morning, but picked up after noon, making travel more difficult.

Jenne Woodrow, 21, an American University student, took a walk outside when the snow stopped falling.

“It’s the first real time of winter, so it’s fun,” she said. “It’s really nice outside. It’s really pretty to see the snow in the trees. It makes you feel very in touch with nature.”

• Matt Cella, Guy Taylor and Jon Ward contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire reports.

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