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Cold Blast Hits Region

By Fred Barbash and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; 4:04 PM

The National Weather Service canceled a snow advisory for the Washington region this afternoon but warned residents to take precautions against strong winds into the evening.

Snowfall across the region ended in the afternoon, the weather service said, but a wind advisory remained in effect until 7 p.m. EST. The advisory covers eastern West Virginia, central and western Maryland, central and northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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The weather service's office in Sterling, Va., said northwest winds would continue to increase this afternoon, reaching sustained speeds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph. It said winds were expected to decrease gradually during the evening but would still produce gusts of up to 30 mph tonight.

The service urged people to "secure all loose outdoor objects such as garbage cans" and to remain alert for blowing or falling debris.

The advisory came after the Washington area was hit this morning with driving rain, a big wet snow, wind gusts in excess of 45 mph and a whopping 40- to 50-degree drop in the temperature from yesterday's 70-degree bliss.

With less than two weeks until spring, the National Weather Service at one point had issued, simultaneously, a snow advisory, a wind advisory and a hazardous weather outlook advisory.

The snow advisory called for an inch or two, here and there, of heavy wet snow over a three-hour period -- just enough to cause some traffic problems.

In northern Maryland, Interstate 70 was closed in both directions briefly this morning near Myersville because of an accident involving three tractor trailers, the Associated Press reported. The traffic on I-70 later resumed.

Despite the snow, schools around the area remained open, although Fairfax County schools announced that they were canceling after-school activities.

Although visibility dropped as low as a quarter-mile as the snow fell, there was little accumulation.

The snowfall was brought by a strong cold front that crossed the mid-Atlantic region with blustery northwest winds of 20 to 30 mph and the potential for stronger wind gusts.

Temperatures tonight will drop to 20 degree in some areas, with northwest winds of 15 to 25 mph, the weather service predicted.

The forecast for the rest of the week is for cold and windy weather and a 30 to 50 percent chance of snow showers Thursday night through the weekend.

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