The first “big” snowfall of the season blanketed the Washington area yesterday, arriving gently on a day when most residents could savor it rather than suffer through it trying to get to work.
Apart from minor car accidents and some terrific snowball fights in the neighborhoods the storm let the region off easy. Only about 3 inches of snow fell inside the Beltway, with some higher accumulations north of the District.
Icy conditions overnight threatened to make driving dicey early this morning. Still, weather forecasters predicted today would become partly sunny, with highs in the lower 40s.
Yesterday, though, was a Saturday for families to nest beside the fire or make a snowman on the lawn.
Dean and Dorothy Dao, 11-year-old twins, took advantage of the white stuff. The twins, who live in the Lion Park community in Arlington, went sledding after building a snowman and pelting each other with snowballs.
“We had a big snowball fight in front of our house with our friends and cousins,” said Dean, who built a snowman in the front yard using wooden planks to get the top snowball in place.
“We’ve also been shoveling people’s steps,” said Dorothy, who drank hot cocoa between activities.
Rain mixed with occasional sleet followed the snow in the Washington and Baltimore areas, tapering off in the late evening.
The snowfall was the back end of a storm system that pushed down through the Ohio Valley and into the Deep South before heading up the East Coast early yesterday. The storm seemed to gather strength after passing over the District. Almost 8 inches fell on Hagerstown and greater Baltimore.
School districts, colleges and churches cancelled weekend activities, choosing to leave cars in garages.
“Northern Virginia residents were prepared and mostly stayed off the roads,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. There were a few minor accidents in Fairfax County, but no injuries, she said.
“Because of the light traffic, road crews were able to clear the snow without having to deal with a lot of cars,” Mrs. Caldwell said.
Road crews got ahead of most of the weather yesterday morning, said David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland Highway Administration. Drivers were out by 6 a.m., treating highways and state roads with sand and salt.
“We had a lot of positive things going for us,” Mr. Buck said, explaining, “There is significantly less traffic, and we had good forecasting so we could make good plans.”
Cameras positioned over major highways Interstates 95, 695, 495 and 97 showed mostly clear roads.
“Knock on wood. We are pretty much unscathed, other than a few spinouts and people stuck in the slush,” said Sgt. Robert Calo at the Maryland State Police’s Forestville barracks.
In Prince George’s County, crews started taking snow off the roads by noon. Nearly 500 workers with more than 230 pieces of equipment planned to work in 12-hour shifts.
Montgomery County deployed nearly 400 workers to clear streets. Operations went relatively smoothly, said Maria Danz of Montgomery’s Division of Highway Services.
The snowfall gave way to sleet and freezing rain around 2 p.m. in the District, making roads more dangerous. But in Fairfax and Montgomery counties, the sleet didn’t come “just more snow,” Mrs. Caldwell said. “It stopped for awhile, then started again.”
Patches of snow and ice on the roads contributed to some minor accidents, but there were no fatalities in the metropolitan area, according to Maryland and Virginia state police said.
Many children got into their first snowball fights of the year.
“Look out, dog, look out,” said Alonso Baker, 15, who was pummeled by snowballs after shouting out his warning in the District’s Bloomingdale neighborhood.
“We’ve been out here about an hour fighting the boys across the street,” Alonso said.
Residents making last-minute trips to the corner stores walked carefully when they crossed main streets in the District. Around 1:30 p.m. on North Capitol Street, a Metropolitan Police cruiser blocked traffic momentarily so a mother and her three children could cross with their bags.
Those who had to work outdoors had it the worse. “It’s been terrible,” mail carrier Mayfield Joseph said.
Mr. Joseph’s day was doubly bad yesterday, when he was expected to deliver mail to 600 homes. “I have 600 homes because people didn’t come in, so I have to do a little extra,” he said.
He added that his job would be a little more manageable if residents would clean off their steps.
Rebecca McClay contributed to this report.