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D.C. Region Still Solidly In Winter's Frozen Grip

Power lines covered with ice line a part of Route 301 in Prince George's County where major outages occurred.
Power lines covered with ice line a part of Route 301 in Prince George's County where major outages occurred. (By Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)

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By David A. Fahrenthold, Yolanda Woodlee and Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 16, 2007

Many of the region's schools will be closed for a third day, and as many as 40,000 homes could remain without power today after a hard freeze turned Wednesday's snow and slush into a stubborn coat of ice on streets, sidewalks and back yards.

Tens of thousands of homes remained without power yesterday, mainly in Maryland, and utility officials said some connections might not be fixed until late today. The outages might have figured in a fatal traffic accident in Bowie, in which two cars collided at an intersection where the signals were out.

Across the rest of the area, the ice gripped roads and power lines and turned snowbanks and back yards into solid masses. It created headaches that extended far beyond the eastern suburbs that were hit hardest Wednesday. In the District, residents complained that the city had not moved to plow streets before they froze.

"We've had snow in this city before," said Helen Talley, 76, of Northeast, who noted that she and her husband, 92, found their cars sealed in after a foot-thick snowbank made by a city plow had turned into a wall of ice. "I've never seen any mess like this."

The ice also gave many area kids one more snow day -- in some places, allowing them a seven-day weekend -- even though not a flake fell yesterday from sunny, cold skies.

"We've got parking lots that are sealed in ice, and the stuff is like concrete," said Brian Edwards, a spokesman for the Montgomery County public school system, one of the districts closed today. "It's just incredibly dense, and so it's impossible to move. And so we need heavy equipment, which we don't have."

The ice formed because of a dip in temperatures Wednesday night, when the low fell to 18 degrees at Reagan National Airport. The wet mess left from the previous day began to solidify.

Brian Lasorsa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said today's weather is not expected to provide much relief: Temperatures could near 30 degrees, and the midday sun could melt some of the ice. But, he said, temperatures will probably drop again at night and refreeze everything. The real thaw should come next week, when temperatures could return to the mid-40s, he said -- normal for a February in Washington.

Yesterday, many of the area's public schools remained closed, the exceptions being those in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church. Closures were announced for today in Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Stafford and Fauquier counties in Virginia and Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties in Maryland.

Loudoun school system spokesman Wayde B. Byard said there were too many safety concerns to consider reopening. Many side streets in suburban areas had not been plowed, he said. In rural areas, which have plenty of dirt roads, snow and rain had frozen, melted and refrozen.

"It's really hazardous," Byard said. "We always err on the side of caution."

For students and parents in these districts, the closures will extend what has become an impromptu Winter Break into Presidents' Day weekend. By Tuesday, it will be six or seven days since many area students have seen their classrooms.

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