Winter’s last snowy gasp pesters Washington region

March 25, 2013

By the thousands, people who thought they were uniquely clever called it March Madness, and just as many with long memories wagged their fingers with talk of some year in the past century when it snowed in April. But for most people in the Washington region, Monday’s late-season snowfall was a pain in the tuchis.

It felt like winter’s afterthought, a belated delivery of something most people dread in the heart of the season and few were ready to entertain after three cold, dreary months bereft of noteworthy snow.

Even many school children, who draw double delight in the stuff when it shuts down their classes, were robbed of that pleasure because they already were on spring break.

After a frosty start to the day on Tuesday, temperatures were forecast to roll up toward 50 degrees, consigning the remaining snow to the storm sewers. Winter-weary weather watchers said they now believe only what they see for themselves.

“Every time this winter when they’ve predicted something, it’s never occurred,” said Drucie Andersen of McLean, recalling the warning of a major snowstorm a couple of weeks ago. “After that last one, they kind of lost their street cred.”

On Monday morning, the “wintery mix” she expected instead dropped more than three inches of snow on her daffodils.

Up to six inches of snow was reported west and north of the District. Reagan National Airport had more than one inch of snow for the first time since January 2011. Power outages, the best bellwether of any local storm’s muscle, were no greater than the number on any sunny day.

A crash Monday morning in the Glenn Dale section of Prince George’s County killed two men, though authorities were still trying to determine whether the accident was related to the snowy weather.

Two of the big school systems — in Fairfax and Montgomery counties — were among several already closed for spring break. In Prince George’s, officials pushed back the start of the school day by two hours, as did public schools in Culpeper, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.

Nick Peters of Severna Park said his drive into Washington wasn’t bad once he got west of the snow-covered highway outside Annapolis. In Middleburg, Va., Jennifer McCloud rejoiced, “I don’t have to slog into town and deal with the slush and the mush.”

The snow was not expected to affect Washington’s renowned cherry blossoms.

“The good thing is we did get a cold snap,” said Carol Johnson, a National Park Service spokeswoman. “So the blossoms aren’t out, which means that the snow won’t knock the blossoms off.”

She said the Park Service is sticking with its prediction that blossoms will be at their peak from April 3 through April 6.

“It’s really very, very hard to predict,” Johnson said.

The snow should all be but a memory by Friday, when the Nationals take on the New York Yankees in an exhibition game that will shake the winter cobwebs out of Nationals Park.

Not so fast, say those with a long memory, who remember a snowy ballgame in April, 26 years ago. That was during baseball’s very long winter in Washington, those years without a team when benevolent major league nines dropped in for guest appearances.

In 1987, it was the Phillies and the champion New York Mets, headed north from spring training, who stopped at RFK Stadium for a charity exhibition game.

Like Monday, the forecast that April 5 was for a cold, wet day.

The newspaper said, “Going on 16 years after it left for Texas, baseball is back. Unfortunately, winter is too, but organizers believe the two can coexist for a day at RFK Stadium.”

The organizers proved wrong.

There were 38,437 people in the stands and snow flurries in the air as the two teams trudged from the relative warmth of their dugouts. The fans’ show of support took on civic significance, for the previous autumn Washington had been the only city in the country that had higher television ratings for a Redskins “Monday Night Football” game than for the seventh game of the World Series.

Ted Lopatkiewicz of McLean, now 60, was one in the shivering throng.

“It snowed and it snowed,” he recalled Monday. “They made it to the fifth inning.”

Called after that, it went down in the preseason baseball books as a 1-0 win for the Mets. It went down in the weather books as one of those days when it snowed in Washington in April.

William Branigin, Mike DeBonis, Susan Svrluga, Ovetta Wiggins, Michael E. Ruane, Robert Barnes and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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