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A Warm Gesture in a Freezing Capital

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President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush ventured into Northeast Washington today to drop off more than 100 coats collected by the White House staff for Pathways to Housing, a District program to find homes for the chronically homeless. Video by Hamil Harris/The Washington PostRead the Story

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By Hamil R. Harris and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Somewhere in Washington, a homeless person might be wearing President Bush's overcoat. And if there was ever a time for a warm coat, it was yesterday, as Washington shivered through the year's coldest day, and much of the country also experienced winter's worst.

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Winter coats from the president, first lady Laura Bush and the White House staff were delivered yesterday to a Washington charitable organization, which promptly began handing them out to the homeless.

After the president presented more than 100 coats to Pathways to Housing DC in Northeast Washington, the group's outreach team "hit the streets to make sure the coats were distributed to some of the District's neediest residents," said Christy Respress, the group's program director.

Washington's high temperature was 28 degrees yesterday. It was the first day this year that the temperature never reached freezing. The low temperature of 16 degrees, recorded at 7:49 a.m. at Reagan National Airport, matched the low last reached Feb. 11.

Fierce winds enhanced the need for warm coats. At one point yesterday, the wind at the airport rose to 31 mph, and a gust of 43 mph was measured. In Anne Arundel County, wind knocked out power to about 11,000 homes and businesses.

Low temperatures also triggered a hypothermia alert in the District, which means that the city's homeless residents are not required to leave certain city shelters by 7 a.m.

Elsewhere across the country, schools closed and holiday travel by air, rail and road was severely disrupted as winter storms scourged parts of the West and Northeast with cold, wind and snow.

Flight cancellations and delays on both coasts rippled through the system, stranding travelers at National as well as in Phoenix, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

From coast to coast, snow piled up, cars slid on icy roads, and wind chills descended to dangerous levels.

Eustis, Maine, reported 41.8 inches of snow, and new snow fell on New Hampshire, where some residents still lacked electricity after an earlier ice storm. Icy roads closed schools in Boston. Blowing snow closed 130 miles of the New York State Thruway for a time.

In the Midwest, about 30 vehicles collided Sunday on Interstate 94 in Michigan in a whiteout. One man was killed when his car slammed into a stopped truck, the Associated Press reported.

Chicago residents were told to stay indoors as high winds and subzero temperatures caused a midday wind chill of 17 degrees below zero.


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