washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Virginia

Today, Flurries and Dissent

First Snowstorm Stalls the Region

By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 20, 2005; Page B01

The first snowstorm of the season yesterday slickened roads, caused scores of fender-benders and triggered the cancellation of after-school and evening activities through much of the region.

Between one and two inches of snow fell in the District and its suburbs from mid-morning to midafternoon. Public schools in the District, Alexandria and Spotsylvania and Stafford counties closed early, and several school districts, including Montgomery, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties and Manassas city schools, planned to open two hours late today. Public schools in Stafford County will be closed.

Traffic was slow and steady in Montgomery Village as snow fell throughout the area. The storm caused fender-benders and cancellations. (Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

Area Closings and Delays
Audio: Va. Traffic Conditions
_____How Much Snow?_____
See the accumulation with the washingtonpost.com Snowcam.
Va. Roadways: Wallace Bouldin of Virginia State Police discusses road conditions.
Va. Traffic: VDOT spokesman, Ryan Hall, discusses the effect of snow on the local commute.
Md. Roadways: Sgt. Rob Moroney of Maryland State Police discusses road conditions.
_____Current Conditions_____
Local Weather Forecast
Live Traffic Information

The forecast for Inauguration Day is better, but still blustery, said AccuWeather meteorologist Henry Margusity. Temperatures should be in the 30s, with wind from the northwest and a few snow flurries, but no accumulation.

President Bush will be able to leave his heated limousine if he wants to and "walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, no problem," Margusity said.

For the estimated 100,000 expected to watch the swearing-in of the president outside the Capitol or the grand parade that will follow, the weather may pose more of a challenge. Spectators will have to claim their spots hours ahead of time to satisfy the most onerous security requirements ever at such an event. And even flurries, combined with what's already on the ground, will make it harder to fight off the cold.

A larger storm system is supposed to move through the region this weekend, Margusity said, dumping at least three inches of snow and sleet.

Highway officials said yesterday's temperatures in the teens and 20s limited the effectiveness of salt and other chemicals spread on the streets to melt the snow. Police and highway officials reported scores of accidents, mostly fender-benders, across the region, including a chain-reaction accident of at least 10 vehicles on Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg that began when a salt truck slammed into a median and overturned. Flights at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport were delayed for up to 2 1/2 hours.

At the Hudson Trail Outfitters stores in Tenleytown and Pentagon City, inauguration-related winter gear was selling briskly, said the retailer's director of store operations, Eric Stalzer.

Hand and foot warmers, chemically triggered packets that can be slipped into pockets or shoes and emit heat for up to eight hours, were proving especially popular, Stalzer said. Hotel employees were buying them by the case for their inaugural guests, as were local news organizations and police officers.

Stalzer cautioned that using the devices with cotton socks could exacerbate potential discomfort, because the warmers could make a person's foot sweat, and cotton socks would simply absorb that moisture and eventually turn clammy and cold.

Instead, those exposed to the cold for long periods should wear undergarments made of wool or a synthetic fabric that keeps moisture off the skin. Outer garments, too, should be waterproof, to protect inner layers from precipitation or slush, he said. "Everyone believes that these hand warmers and feet warmers are going to be their savior," Stalzer said. "You've got to get that synthetic base layer to wick away moisture, and then we can talk about insulating."

Jeff Dubin, a doctor who directs the emergency room at Washington Hospital Center, said those out in the elements should avoid drinking alcohol -- it lowers body temperature and clouds judgment.

Hot beverages won't help nearly as much as warm layers, he said, and nothing is more important than a warm, waterproof hat.

Staff writers Tim Craig, Steven Ginsberg, Maria Glod, V. Dion Haynes, Stephen C. Fehr, Jerry Markon and Ylan Q. Mui contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company