- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2010

Shovels crunching under snow were among the first signs of life after a crippling snowstorm ground the Mid-Atlantic region to a halt, leading to scores of cancellations and closings and leaving tens of thousands without power on an important Sunday of television.

Trees and power lines sagged under the weight of a wet, heavy snow that fell more than 2 feet in some places.

Authorities in Maryland, Virginia and the District were unable to keep up with snow-removal operations against the pace of the storm and urged residents to stay home and off treacherous roads.

“For the snow-removal equipment to get in and finish the work on secondary roads, it’s important that people try to stay off the roads,” said Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. “It’s much harder to clear when there’s a heavy volume of traffic and the plows are trying to do their work.”

Thousands of wrecks were reported, but fewer deaths than feared. As of Sunday afternoon, the only reported fatalities were a father and son who were killed Friday in Southwest Virginia while trying to help someone stuck on a highway.

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

The nearly 18 inches recorded at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was the fourth-highest storm total for the city. At Washington Dulles International Airport, the record was shattered with 32 inches. As of Sunday afternoon, Dulles Airport had just one of its four runways operational with crews working on a second. Reagan Airport was closed but attempting to reopen Monday.

And it’s not over. The National Weather Service issued a winter-storm watch Sunday and said Northern Virginia and parts of West Virginia could be hit with as much as 6 inches of new snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The storm began in the District on Friday morning and didn’t let up for more than 30 hours.

President Obama, who called it “Snowmageddon,” also was affected. A tree limb crashed into sport utility vehicle in his motorcade carrying press members. No one was injured.

According to the National Weather Service, Washington has received more than 1 foot of snow in a single storm only 13 times since 1870.

Thousands of homes across the region were left without power, even during the Super Bowl — the NFL’s championship game and the yearly apex of televised sports.

The Office of Personnel Management announced Sunday afternoon that all federal agencies in Washington would be closed Monday and that only essential and emergency employees would have to report for work.

About 230,000 people work inside the Beltway for federal government agencies. Some school districts in the region canceled classes until midweek.

The storm hit just a little more than a month after the region was battered by about 16 inches of snow a week before Christmas.

While some residents were inconvenienced, others were making the most of the historic snowfall.

“I think it’s fun,” said 10-year-old Jayla Burgess in Arlington, Va. “The best part is throwing snowballs at my dad.”

Another snowball fight, organized online, brought hundreds to Dupont Circle. Skiers lapped the Reflecting Pool along the Mall, and others used the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a slope.

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

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 16 rows of names were buried in snow. Higher on the wall, snow that had settled into the engraved letters stood out against the black background. The big attraction at the Lincoln Memorial was not the nation’s 16th president, but rather a snowman with eyes made of copper pennies bearing Lincoln’s likeness.

Carolyn Matuska loved the quiet during her morning run along the Mall.

“Oh, it’s spectacular out,” she said. “It’s so beautiful. The temperature’s perfect, it’s quiet, there’s nobody out. It’s a beautiful day.”

The usually traffic-snarled roads were mostly barren, save for some snowplows, firetrucks, ambulances and a few SUVs. The usually clogged Capital Beltway was empty at times.

Thousands navigated barely passable streets and a Metrorail system operating only underground to arrive at the Verizon Center for a hockey contest between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who eliminated the Caps from the playoffs last season in a seven-game series. Those fans were rewarded with a come-from-behind Caps overtime victory.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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