- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2003

The first snowfall of the year turned out to be a heavyweight for some residents of Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, and the two-part storm will leave as much as a foot of snow in some areas by the time it’s over this morning.

But the storm was a mere afterthought in close-in parts of the Washington area. In the District and east of the city 1 or 2 “inconsequential” inches had fallen by yesterday morning before turning to rain.

But north and west of the city, up to 9 inches of snow accumulated overnight Thursday.

The second phase of the storm, which was expected to hit in earnest in the wee hours of this morning, could drop another 3 to 6 inches on the area and much more toward the mountains of Virginia and Maryland.

“It was definitely quite high, about halfway up my thigh, over my high boots,” said Kirsten Nyrop of Purcellville, Va., who works at a restaurant in Leesburg, Va., where 9 inches had fallen by morning. “It was quite disruptive.”

At the only Home Depot in the District, customers were lined up before the 6 a.m. opening.

“The rock salt has disappeared very quickly,” said Mike Choi, co-manager of the store in Northeast. “The metal snow shovels are gone and plastic shovels are disappearing just as quickly.”

John Gilligan of the District was among those making his way down the store’s aisles, with a big bucket of rock salt and snow shovel in tow. “I didn’t get into town until late [Thursday] night,” Mr. Gilligan said. “I heard about the storm, and I found I didn’t have a shovel and Snow Melt and so I thought I should do that.”

Exactly one year ago the area saw its first snowfall of what turned into a very snowy winter. The calendar coincidence was “statistically peculiar,” said Steve Zubrick of the National Weather Service.

By midmorning, temperatures throughout the area had risen to the mid-30s, the precipitation had fizzled to a light drizzle and the storm had moved up the East Coast, said Weather Service meteorologist Luis Rosa. By midafternoon, the streets were clear and much of the snow had melted from rain.

In Damascus, 9 inches were also on the ground in the morning, the Weather Service said. But in nearby Germantown, a Home Depot manager said there were only about 4 inches of snow on the ground by midday. The Home Depot there had sold out its supply of snow shovels, but roads were clear.

In the District and east of the city, an “inconsequential” 1 or 2 inches of snow fell, Mr. Zubrick said. It covered grass but left roads virtually unaffected. The lack of accumulation was due to higher temperatures caused by updrafts of warm air from the south, Mr. Zubrick said.

Nearly every jurisdiction in the Washington area was under a snow emergency plan, officials said, but only Montgomery and Loudoun counties closed their schools. Most school systems did cancel afternoon activities, and Scholastic Assessment Tests scheduled for this morning were canceled in some areas.

The storm was blamed for one death near Winchester, Va., in Frederick County.

Officials said Christopher Apodaca, 41, was killed early yesterday when his pickup truck ran off a snow-covered road, struck a tree and overturned.

Fender-benders, however, were “too numerous to mention,” said Larry Friedel of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. In Montgomery County, there was a multicar pileup on Interstate 370 and in another case the state police reported that a van rear-ended a snow plow.

Utilities were unaffected by the storm. Potomac Electric Power Co. experienced an outage affecting about 800 customers in Montgomery County, although spokesman Robert Dobkin said the problem did not appear related to the weather.

There was a 30-minute delay on Metro’s Red Line in the morning, but that was attributed to a mechanical failure on train cars, a spokesman said. The problems that beset Metro trains during last February’s blizzard, when moisture from snow caused some car’s electricity to short-circuit, did not appear. Empty trains ran all night, keeping outdoor tracks clear.

Although some offices instituted liberal leave policies, many area workers had to plow through the weather the best way they could.

“It wasn’t that bad, so long as I took my time and stayed out of the way of some of the nuts on the road,” said Jamaal Charleston, a clerk at the Long Reach Village Safeway in Columbia, Md.

Mr. Charleston, who drove in from Randallstown, Md., said he found the major highways slippery but passable. Business was a little lighter than usual but steady at the Safeway, he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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