- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) — The heaviest snow of the young century fell in a gentle but relentless blanket across the mid-Atlantic states on Sunday, piling up more than a foot of snow in the Baltimore-Washington area with more snow expected overnight.

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner both declared a state of emergency, freeing up additional resources and, if needed, the National Guard. The District of Columbia declared a snow emergency.

"This storm has already produced flooding and winter weather conditions that have prompted evacuations in some southwestern Virginia counties," Warner said in a statement. "Weather forecasts call for continued snowfall, flooding and potentially damaging accumulations of ice."

The National Weather Service said total accumulation in the Washington area could approach two feet of snow by the time the storm ended on Monday.

By 4 p.m. Sunday, snowfall amounts included 17 inches at Jacksonville in Baltimore County, Md.; 15 inches at Montgomery Village in Montgomery County, Md.; 13 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport; 11.2 inches at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; and 10.5 inches at Dulles International Airport, the National Weather Service said.

National Airport and BWI Airport closed Sunday morning. Dulles, which has two parallel runways, was keeping one runway open at a time while plowing the other to continue limited service Sunday afternoon.

"We just keep jumping back and forth between the two," said Tom Sullivan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Operations were scaled back considerably, but 10 international flights had landed late Sunday afternoon, he said.

"All that were trying to get in we got in," he said.

Calvin Meadows, a meteorological technician in the weather services' Sterling, Va., office said the storm resulted from three things: a mass of moist warm air from the Gulf of Mexico that moved into the Mid-Atlantic, entrenched cold air over the region, and a vigorous upper air disturbance.

"These three factors combined to produce the snow," he said.

The snow by Sunday afternoon already ranked on the top 20 list of snowfall totals, Meadows said. He said the 11.2 inches at National Airport "right now would rank 19th on the list."

It was the heaviest snow in the Washington area since an early January storm dropped more than two feet of snow in 1996.

The snow shut down Amtrak's Washington to Florida service while those running north from Washington continued in operation, a spokeswoman said.

"Trains running from Boston to Washington continue to be in service, but Washington to Florida trains have been canceled," Amtrak spokeswoman Sarah Swain said Sunday afternoon.

Washington's Metrobus service operated on the main roads only, and Metrorail subway service was running one train an hour.

Schools throughout the region planned to close on Monday. Although Presidents Day is a holiday, many schools in the Washington region had earlier planned to be open on Monday to make up for snow days lost earlier in the season.

Snowplows shoved the snow aside and then went back to replow the same roads to stay ahead of the storm.

"It's an uphill battle today and will continue to be throughout the day until tomorrow," said Joan Morris of the Virginia Department of Transportation. "But we're out there. Our crews are plowing, plowing, plowing. They hit a stretch and go back and do it again."

She said 1,500 salt trucks and plows were on northern Virginia roads — 40 percent of them plowing roads in subdivisions.

"Our goal is to have the roads in good enough shape for Tuesday," she said. She said VDOT had used 100,000 tons of salt this winter before this storm began, and had another 40,000 tons on hand as of Friday. She said the agency had been assured by its two major suppliers that there would be plenty of salt available for restocking.

"We've busted our budgets," she said.

Sports events, including the Maryland-Wake Forest basketball game, were canceled. In the South, heavy rain interrupted and shortened the Daytona 500 stock car race in Daytona, Fla. Flash flood watches were issued in Tennessee, and freezing rain fell in Kentucky. Heavy snow fell from southern Illinois and southern Indiana northeast to the coast.

Heavy snow was forecast to move north up the East Coast on Monday, ranging from Philadelphia to Boston, while clearing skies and temperatures in the 40s were forecast in the Midwest for Monday.

The weather service said total snowfall in the Mid-Atlantic area was expected to range from 20 to 26 inches from the eastern West Virginia panhandle through western and north-central Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia; from 16 to 24 inches from northeastern-central Maryland and northern Virginia; and 10 to 16 inches in central Virginia and extreme southern Maryland.

Hospitals around the Washington area appealed for drivers of four-wheel-drive vehicles to help bring staff to and from work.

"We've been getting a good response so far," said Officer Tyrone Bell, security officer at National Hospital in northwest Washington. "We've got them lined up outside. When the employees come out, they just drive them away."

Snow already was heavy from Iowa and eastern Nebraska through Illinois on east while a little to the south, heavy rains saturated parts of West Virginia and Tennessee.

(Tobin Beck in Washington contributed to this report.)

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