Thursday, December 26, 2002

Christmas Day was a dream come true for many Washington-area residents who awoke to cotton-ball-sized flakes of swirling snow, only the ninth white Christmas the region has seen in 131 years.
“It was just wonderful,” said Jorge Chavez, 23, a native of Peru and resident of San Francisco who was visiting friends in Chevy Chase. “We went out to take pictures. I’m so glad I saw [snow].”
Still, the unexpected snowfall kept many people busy.
Road crews were out salting highways, police responded to numerous crashes and meteorologists warned of the storm’s effect as it headed for the Northeast.
“We might have some icing up on roadways and walkways Thursday morning,” said Barbara Watson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. “People need to be careful about that. There should be some strong winds, which always happens when storms leave.”
However, Mrs. Watson said temperatures would reach the mid-40s by this afternoon and melt the ice.
The heaviest snow, up to 20 inches, was expected in Albany, N.Y., western and central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. A foot was predicted for Vermont, Maine and parts of Pennsylvania.
The mid-Atlantic was spared the brunt of the storm, which crept up the East Coast after dumping up to 15 inches of snow in the Midwest and killing 14 persons.
Reston had 3 inches of snow, Manassas had 1 inches and Gaithersburg had 3. Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County had no accumulation because of a rain-and-snow mix.
The total accumulation for the District, including Tuesday night’s snow, was 1 inch, Mrs. Watson said. The region’s biggest snowfall on a Christmas Day was 5.4 inches in 1962, according to the weather service.
The region also had measurable snowfall of more than one-tenth of an inch on Christmas Day in 1892, 1902, 1909, 1935, 1969, 1970 and 1993.
“There have been tons of small car crashes,” Sgt. Bryan Davy of the Maryland State Police in Rockville said early yesterday afternoon.
Montgomery County’s trouble spots were on Interstate 270.
“Shoulders and ramps are still treacherous at this point,” he said.
In Baltimore County, officials asked motorists to slow down as they entered highway ramps because of the risk of hydroplaning in the slush and snow.
Virginia State Police said the majority of the crashes caused only minor damages.
“It’s settled down from the morning when we had calls for vehicles off the road, spinouts, minor injuries and minor crashes,” said Sgt. S.L. Edelman, a state police spokesman for Fairfax and Arlington counties, and Alexandria. “There has not been anything catastrophic or life threatening.”
The weather caused Baltimore-Washington International Airport to close two runways from 11:30 a.m. to 2:55 p.m., said John White, an airport spokesman.
Operations at Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports were not delayed by the snow.
“Everything’s fine,” said Brian Doyle, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman. “There’s no great waiting lines in Washington-area airports. The snow didn’t cause any major difficulties, and the lines have been moving very well. There’s been little to no impact. There have been no major problems that we’ve heard about.”
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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