- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2005

School officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia shut down schools for the second time in less than a week and governments instituted “liberal leave” policies in advance of a snowstorm that failed to deliver any significant accumulation yesterday.

The National Weather Service said steady snowfall left between 3 and 6 inches throughout much of the Washington region yesterday, well below the 6 to 10 inches that forecasters had predicted earlier in the day. Accumulation could be highest along Interstate 95 in Virginia, forecasters said.

The snow, however, never accumulated on area roads, and reported totals in and around the District were minimal. An inch of snow fell in Germantown and Oxon Hill, 2.8 inches in Herndon, and 2 inches were recorded in the District, the Weather Service reported last night.

Susan Duncan of Fairfax took yesterday off from work so she could stay home with her 6-year-old daughter, Alecia, whose school was closed for the day. She said staying home cost her double the amount she pays for a day of child care.

“I like snow, but the only problem is the schools. They take off a lot when it’s not really necessary and that puts a damper on it. I think it’s been a waste,” Ms. Duncan said. “What they were calling for, I thought it would be better if I stayed home. But the way it’s panned out, I think I should have gone in.”

Dawn Ceol of Haymarket, Va., whose three children attend school in Manassas, agreed.

“We could’ve had school today. But I don’t blame them, the school officials, for what they did. This area gets so hyper about any chance of snow. And the forecasters hype it up as well.”

Kate Harrison, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said school officials try to “err on the side of safety” when considering whether to cancel classes. She said the school system made its decision at about 4 a.m. after reviewing forecasts and consulting with other jurisdictions.

“At that point, it really did appear that all the forecasts said there would be snow throughout the day and road conditions would be treacherous,” she said. “Clearly, it’s not as bad as that.”

Yesterday was the third day this school year that classes were canceled in Montgomery County, which now has one snow day remaining.

Fairfax County used its last snow day yesterday. Alexandria, which does not build snow days into its school calendar, has canceled two days of classes that students will have to make up. The District has used two of its three snow days.

D.C. officials lifted the city’s snow emergency at 3 p.m. yesterday, when it became apparent that the snowfall was not going to be as heavy as predicted. But city transportation officials said about 150 trucks would continue to work in 12-hour shifts through this morning plowing and salting main and secondary roads.

Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said there were some delays at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport because of storm conditions in several cities in the Northeast. She said there were no delays because of local weather conditions.

“We have been very fortunate,” she said. “We have really not had any snow accumulate on the runways.”

Reagan National Airport recorded half an inch of snow by late yesterday afternoon. Dulles had 1.2 inches of snow, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport reported only traces of snow.

The weather service said this morning’s road conditions could be complicated by freezing overnight. There was no word last night about early delays or cancellations.

Highs today are expected to reach 39 degrees. Forecasters say scattered snow showers are possible today, but accumulation is likely to be less than an inch. By Thursday, temperatures should reach above 40 degrees.

While yesterday’s snow did not accumulate on the area’s roads, motorists still complained about driving conditions.

“Visibility is way down,” said Steve Plantz, 47, a truck driver who stopped at the Maryland Welcome Center on Interstate 95 just south of Baltimore.

Neisy Perez, 40, of New York, who stopped at the rest stop on her way home from Florida, said driving conditions were hazardous. “The roads aren’t bad. It’s the spray off the trucks that makes it hard to see,” she said.

The snow also prompted most colleges and universities to cancel classes yesterday.

“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” said Trish Balba, 20, a journalism and government student at the University of Maryland at College Park. “My professor e-mailed me and told me that even if we don’t have school [today], he’s still having class.”

Others worried the freezing rain would make sidewalks dangerous.

“The weather is scaring me to death,” said Pat Doll, 58, of Manassas Park. Ms. Doll uses a cane to walk between her office on Duke Street and the King Street Metro stop.

The sidewalks were “doing pretty well” yesterday afternoon, but even a little ice could cause a problem for her. “I don’t walk well even in good weather,” she said.

• Melissa Brosk, Amy Doolittle and Arlo Wagner contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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