- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2015

Extreme weather can bring out the best and worst in people, and Thursday’s snowstorm across the D.C. region was no exception — as Diane Prouty can attest.

Driving home from work Thursday afternoon, the Gaithersburg resident was nearly involved in a chain-reaction car crash caused by an aggressive driver whose car spun out on MD Route 28.

“I think the cold temperatures and the thought of snow causes peoples’ brains to fog over,” Ms. Prouty said.

As much as 9 inches of snow blanketed the greater D.C. area Thursday in what many residents hope was winter’s last gasp: The National Weather Service has forecasted high temperatures in the 50s next week. Ronald Reagan National Airport reported a record 4.6 inches of snow Thursday, while 9 inches were measured in Frederick.

Rain that started falling Wednesday night turned to sleet and snow early Thursday to create a slushy, mushy covering for local roads. The snow continued to fall and accumulate throughout the day, making any drive a dicey activity.

Area officials had urged motorists not to drive in order to let road crews clear snow-covered streets and treat them with salt, but dozens of minor weather-related accidents were reported around the region. Virginia authorities reported more than 600 wrecks Thursday.

Snow and ice made driving treacherous throughout Maryland: Huge backups occurred on Interstate 70 near the border between Frederick and Washington counties when tractor-trailers were unable to climb South Mountain.

In southwest Virginia, flooding and a mudslide forced the closure of about 70 roads Thursday morning.

The winter storm also slowed air traffic at the region’s three main airports: Washington Dulles International reported more than 200 flight cancellations, Ronald Reagan National had more than 430 cancellations, and Baltimore Washington International-Thurgood Marshall recorded more than 170 canceled flights.

But while Washington can look forward to a warming trend next week, winter could have at least one more blast for much of the country: Record low temperatures are in the forecast for dozens of cities.

By midday Thursday, a strong cold front moving across the eastern U.S. had dumped more than 20 inches of snow into parts of Kentucky, and conditions worsened in the Northeast as snow was starting to pile up, reaching nearly 6 inches and counting in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia, by early afternoon.

The massive snow in Kentucky left hundreds of drivers stranded on two major highways.

Schools, government offices and legislatures in the South and Northeast were shut down for what could be one of the last snow days at the end of a winter that’s been brutal for much of the country.

The National Weather Service had winter storm warnings in effect from Texas to Nantucket, Massachusetts, and the forecast called for record cold temperatures in the same area on Friday.

Locally, the snow closed most schools and government offices, as well as many Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo.

At the U.S. Capitol, where sledding has been banned in the wake of 9/11 attacks, some families defied the restriction to enjoy racing down the hillside on their sleds. U.S. Capitol Police officers did not attempt to stop the sledders.

“Thanks for letting us get two runs in. We appreciate it,” one woman told some officers who allowed her children to sled at the Capitol.

Quite a few residents took advantage of the snow day to visit the Lincoln Memorial.

Louis Duenas, a contractor from Maryland, said he enjoyed noting the difference in the memorial’s appearance between summer and winter.

“If it rains, or it’s summer, or winter, whatever, to me it’s okay. I don’t mind it,” Mr. Duenas said.

As for Ms. Prouty, who was nearly in a traffic accident, she discovered that her driveway was snowed in when she got home, making it impossible to park her car. But a neighbor happened to using his snowblower in his driveway and volenteered to plow hers right then and there.

“I saw the best and the worst of what people do in the snow,” she said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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