- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 7, 2010

The U.S. capital and other cities in the Mid-Atlantic awoke Sunday to below-freezing temperatures and piles of wet, heavy snow while power crews tried to restore electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes.

The National Weather Service called the storm “historic” and reported a foot of snow in parts of Ohio and 2 feet or more in the District of Columbia, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia got closer to 3 feet.

Many roads reopened, but officials continued to warn residents that highways could be icy and treacherous. The heavy, wet snow snapped tree limbs onto power lines and several roofs collapsed under the weight.

Neighborhoods in Bethesda remained without power for close to 24 hours, and Pepco could not tell customers Sunday morning when service would be back. A recorded message said it’s a multiday event and residents should “plan accordingly.”

The ugly side of the snow led to thousands of wrecks. Still, only three people have died, including a father-and-son team who were killed trying to help someone stuck on a highway in Virginia, where roads were a mess. Another twelve accidents, including one with an injury, were being handled by Virginia state police Sunday morning.

Philadelphia got 28.5 inches of snow Saturday, just shy of the record 30.7 inches during the January 1996 blizzard. Snow totals were even higher to the west in Pennsylvania, with 31 inches recorded in Upper Strasburg and 30 inches in Somerset.

Almost 18 inches of snow was recorded at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which is closed. That’s the fourth-highest storm total for the city. At nearby Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, the record was shattered with 32 inches. Flights there have resumed but are severely limited.

Bus services in Washington and Montgomery County have been canceled.

Authorities say most public transportation in Philadelphia has resumed in the wake of the city’s second-largest snowfall, but in Pittsburgh, bus and light-rail service was suspended.

In New Jersey, more than 90,000 customers lost power during the storm’s peak. By Sunday morning, 59,000 homes and businesses — nearly all in southern Cape May County — remained without power. Workers from other areas were pitching in, and state crews were trying to clear roads.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday urged people to stay off the roads.

“Try to stay inside; try to stay warm,” he said. “Sunday will be a better day, so get ready to utilize the rest of your weekend.”

In Washington, the sun finally was shining Sunday, and the sounds of shovels could be heard on streets. Officials were urging people to keep thoroughfares clear to let plows get through.

The nation’s capital took on a surreal, almost magical feel Saturday even though it was one of the worst snowstorms in the city’s history.

“Right now, it’s like the Epcot Center version of Washington,” said Mary Lord, 56, a D.C. resident for some 30 years who had skied around the city.

President Obama called it “Snowmageddon.” Even his motorcade — which featured sport utility vehicles instead of limousines — fell victim to the storm as a tree limb crashed onto a vehicle carrying press. No one was injured.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, soldiers’ names were buried 16 rows deep, while higher up, snow had settled into the letters so they stood out against the black background. The wreaths of the World War II Memorial looked like giant white-frosted doughnuts. The big attraction at the Lincoln Memorial was not the nation’s 16th president but rather a snowman with eyes of copper pennies bearing Lincoln’s likeness.

The storm’s damage had serious implications for many people stuck without power and unable to travel elsewhere. Nicole Ibrahim said she was worried for the health of her 2-year-son, Joshua, after their house in Silver Spring lost power.

“It’s pretty cold, and we’re worried about Joshua,” she said. “We were all bundled up in the same bed together, and he was coughing in his sleep, and his heart was racing, and we worried he might be getting pneumonia.”

The snow comes less than two months after a Dec. 19 storm dumped more than 16 inches on Washington. According to the National Weather Service, Washington has gotten more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870.

The heaviest on record was 28 inches in January 1922. The biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 3 feet fell, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson penned in their diaries.

Associated Press photographer Jacquelyn Martin in Silver Spring and writers Carol Druga, Sarah Brumfield, Christine Simmons and Philip Elliott in Washington, Kathleen Miller in Arlington and Alex Dominguez in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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