- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The late-winter storm that stopped and started until it finally dropped as much as 12 inches of snow on the region Monday frustrated some residents eager for their first big snowfall, but gave road crews ample time between waves to clear streets for the morning commute and then overnight icing.

“It’s very difficult to get ahead of anything,” said Dave Buck, Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman. “You’re just fighting to play even-steven during a storm.”

Mr. Buck said the big breaks came at about 10 p.m. Sunday night, then at 10 a.m. Monday, when the storm abuptly ended.

“Once [the snow] stopped, people saw a dramatic difference very quickly,” said Mr. Buck, who warned motorists to be wary of black ice and wind-blown snow overnight, because of temperatures dipping into the teens.

“Do not assume anything when you’re out tonight and tomorrow morning,” he added.

The storm, which started on Saturday and returned Sunday in two parts, hit the southern and eastern parts of Maryland the hardest. Officials in St. Mary’s County reported a foot of snow. The District and the surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties received roughly 6 to 8 inches.

As predicted by the National Weather Service, the storm stayed east of Interstate 95, which resulted in only 1 to 3 three inches for the western suburbs and mountain regions. By noon, the storm had moved into New York, then Boston, where about 7 inches fell.

The storm closed universities and school systems across Virginia and Maryland - including those in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and in Alexandria and the rest of Northern Virginia.

D.C. schools opened two hours late, as did the federal government.

School systems began Monday evening announcing closings and delays for Tuesday.

The high winds and ice during the early part of the storm helped down utility lines and caused widespread power outages.

Roughly 6,100 Pepco customers were without power at the peak of the storm. The number was down to roughly 1,150 by Monday afternoon. Prince George’s County received the worst of it, losing power in 990 households.

“We’re still doing battle with the wind,” Pepco spokesman Bob Hanley said.

Dominion Virginia Power reported as many as 7,448 customers without power in Northern Virginia and more than 17,000 outages in the southeast region.

The District deployed road crews Sunday afternoon before the snow began falling, then redeployed them until Tuesday to remove ice .

“I am extremely pleased with the job our crews have done so far,” said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat. “But our work is not done yet. We need to keep going until all of this snow is gone and the roads are completely dry again.”

Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Joan Morris also said crews would be working overnight to clear paths in subdivisions so motorists can have easier access to major thoroughfares.

“Our goal there is to make it passable,” she said.

Not everybody thought the plows were doing enough, though.

The snow “wouldn’t be a problem if D.C. had better plowing capabilities, especially when people are trying to get to work,” said Jennifer Downes-Angus, among the many using Metrorail on Tuesday. “I went to school in Ohio, and we wouldn’t shut down for less than 1 foot.”

Metro reported only minor subway delays and said they largely were the result of brake and door problems and difficulties switching tracks owing to the cold.

Metro buses had more difficulties and widespread delays because they were forced to reduce speeds and avoid untreated roads, agency spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, a Democrat, and his wife were involved in a crash Sunday night in Burtonsville as the snow began to fall.

They were passengers in a county-owned sport utility vehicle driven by a police officer. Their vehicle was struck at an intersection by a pickup truck.

The pickup driver, Kendall S. Smith, 47, of Wheaton, was charged with drunken driving. Mr. Leggett was treated and released at a hospital.

Officials at Ronald Reagan Washington National, Washington Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall airports reported cancellations and major delays Monday morning, but were able to clear all major runways by midafternoon.

“We were able to take advantage of daylight hours to thoroughly clear taxiways to prevent the ice from becoming an issue tonight or tomorrow,” said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for Metro Washington Airport Authority.

Cities to the south and east felt the effects of the large storm system.

Before arriving in the D.C. region, the storm dropped roughly 4 inches of snow on Alabama and other Southern states, canceling church services and snarling highway traffic.

The New York Department of Education closed public schools for the first time since 2004, liberating roughly 1 million students. Some families headed to Central Park to sled down hills on garbage-can lids, plastic cafeteria trays and other makeshift sleds.

Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said the region has received more than 60 inches of snow for the season, about a foot more than usual.

*Ben Connery and Betsy Pisik contributed to this report.

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