- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The fourth nor’easter this month walloped the D.C. area and much of the Northeast on the first full day of spring, dropping up to 7 inches of snow in some places that forced governments to shut down, airlines to cancel flights and commuters to telework on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather warning for the region until 8 p.m. Wednesday as the storm wound down after dumping 4 inches on the District and up to 7 inches in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Loudon County, Virginia.

“It is above normal for March,” National Weather Service meteorologist Ray Martin said Wednesday. “Normally in March, Reagan Airport gets 1.3 inches of snow, so we’re well above that.”

He stressed that snowstorms in March are not uncommon and that the region’s overall snowfall for the winter and early spring is not unusually high despite several nor’easters.

As of Wednesday evening, Mr. Martin said the most significant snowfall had passed as the storm continued up the East Coast.

The bad news? “There is another system that we’re watching for Saturday night which could bring another bit of wintry weather for the season,” the meteorologist said.

Throughout the Northeast, airlines canceled more than 4,000 flights, an estimated 15,000 customers lost power from West Virginia northward, and school districts throughout the region called off classes ahead of the storm. At least two traffic deaths were reported in New Jersey and on New York’s Long Island.

Up to 8 inches of snow had fallen in some Philadelphia suburbs by midafternoon, and 13 inches outside Allentown, Pennsylvania. New York had at least 5 inches ahead of the evening commute and braced for a total of 6 to 12. Forecasters said Boston could get 6 inches as the storm moved into New England.

In the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a snow emergency from 9 a.m. Wednesday morning until 7 a.m. Thursday. During that time, drivers must not park in snow emergency routes, marked by red and white signs.

Metro activated a severe weather plan Wednesday morning, reducing service to four trains an hour, delaying buses for up to an hour and a half and halting all MetroAccess trips.

The Maryland State Highway Administration said it had deployed 2,500 pieces of equipment — mostly plow trucks — stay on top of the storm.

“Anything that is we leave now has the potential to refreeze overnight,” said spokesman Charlie Gischler. “The good thing about storms this time of year is that it’s a high sun angle so it really helps melt the snow.”

Maryland State Police said on social media that between Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon they had “responded to 579 vehicle crashes, 322 disabled vehicle calls, and 1,821 overall calls for service during the storm.”

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Virginia State Police reported on social media that troopers had responded to 250 crashes statewide.

Schools across the region closed Wednesday, and the Office of Personnel Management closed offices in the District, instructing most federal employees to work from home.

The storm also stranded local air travelers. Flight-tracking website FlightAware reported that 40 flights were delayed at Baltimore Washington International-Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum, Maryland; Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington County; and Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly as of Wednesday noon, and 57 flights were cancelled.

Although airports worked to de-ice planes and plow runways during the storm, airlines reduced the number of flights during the storm, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

An airport authority spokesman said they expect the region’s airports to resume normal service Friday, with some residual delays affecting flights during the weekend as airlines accommodate a backlog of passengers.

The relatively warmth of the ground temperatures kept many pipes from freezing. DC Water said that no unusual water main breakages occurred — a sharp change from the dozens of water mains that buckled under winter storms.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service said the District’s 3,700 cherry blossom trees due to bloom at the end of the month are safe unless freezing temperatures persist until next week.

“The snow itself is not a threat at this stage of the bloom cycle,” park service spokesman Mike Litterst said in email, adding that the blooms are “still safely ensconced in the tight buds.”

“There’s an old saying: Climate is what you expect and weather is what you get, because pretty much the average is never realized,” said Mr. Martin, the meteorologist.

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