- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

Residents slipped and slid through the tail end of the region’s first winter storm Wednesday, as a thick coating of ice turned routine walks into harrowing adventures.

Pedestrians seemed to suffer more than motorists as roads were mostly cleared in the morning but sidewalks were not.

“I almost killed myself twice today, once coming out of my apartment and again getting off the bus,” said Zachary Leichaa, who lives in the District.

Area hospitals had to deal with a surge of broken arms and shoulder injuries.

“Thankfully they were all relatively minor injuries. Nothing major, but obviously with all the ice this was not a typical day in Georgetown University Hospital reported a steady stream of patients with broken arms and hands and shoulder sprains.

D.C. officials reported few problems on major roads. However, nine people were injured in a five-car crash near Prince George’s County Fire Department said. The cause was under investigation.

Three people were trapped in one of the cars at the intersection of Route 4 and Silver Hill Road and suffered serious injuries such as broken arms and legs. The other injuries were less serious, the fire department said.

Some residents chose to walk on the streets rather than face sidewalks on which up to four-tenths of an inch of ice had accumulated.

“With people hurrying to get to work, most didn’t take the time to shovel off their sidewalks,” said John Lisle, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation.

“I think it’s ironic that it was so much more dangerous to walk on the sidewalk than on a busy street,” said John B. Townsend II, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The District sent more than 200 snowplows to pour salt and clear ice off of the its 2,940 lane miles of roadway, while Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Loudoun counties.

Most public schools in the region were closed on Wednesday, including those in the counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Howard, and Federick in Maryland. The District’s public schools opened two hours late, but some private schools closed altogether.

Sidwell Friends School were cancelled.

“My children’s school was cancelled today. Because of what? Some ice?” Mr. Obama told reporters at a gathering of business leaders.

“As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled,” he said to laughter.

“In fact, my 7-year-old pointed out that you’d go outside for recess. You wouldn’t even stay indoors. So, I don’t know. We’re going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness.”

Scattered power outages were reported throughout the region. In Dominion Virginia Power and Pepco.

“Overall it was a pretty normal day. With the way ice builds up on power lines, we’re lucky this storm was not a lot worse,” Pepco spokesman Bob Dobkin said.

Clear weather and sunny skies are in store for area residents on Thursday, the National Weather Service said. This should clear away most of the accumulated ice.

The Washington area was but a footnote in the storm, caused by a massive low-pressure system, which hammered everything from the Southern Plains to the East Coast. In Kentucky, frozen tree limbs crashed into power lines and tumbled onto roads, where ice was 3 inches thick in some areas.

The storm left 1 million customers without power in the region. Parts of northwestern Vermont was expected to receive 16 inches in some parts of the state.

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