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Correction to This Article
This article about the snowstorm incorrectly said in some editions that Fairfax County schools would be closed. The county's schools opened March 3 after a two-hour delay.

Snow Blankets Washington Region

The Washington region copes with the season's most significant snow fall and braces for what could be the largest storm in three years.

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By Michael E. Ruane and Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Across the white tableau of blowing flakes and frigid air yesterday, the eerie quiet was broken by the delighted shrieks of a creature that had seemed almost extinct this winter: the juvenile homo sapiens, cavorting in a thick layer of glorious new snow.

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As the biggest winter storm of the season closed many schools and left the region blanketed with the largest accumulations in years, sleds were hauled from basements, and legions of children hurried for the nearest hill.

But the weather left adults of the species with headaches. Driving was treacherous. Many side streets and some major thoroughfares seemed insufficiently plowed. And gusty, arctic conditions were forecast for this morning.

Windchill values could nudge below zero today, the Weather Service said, and officials warned of the danger of refrozen snowmelt. The rest of the week should see a gradual thaw, with highs in the 50s by Friday.

Yesterday, though, there were walks to be shoveled, windshields to be scraped and slush puddles to be jumped, and a stiff wind chafed ears and plastered snow against the north sides of buildings and trees.

The storm was even tough on snowplows. One slid into a ditch along Route 5 in Charles County, and the engine of another, in the District, caught fire.

There were power outages -- including a five-hour blackout at St. Mary's College of Maryland -- fender benders and scores of trees downed by the wind. Both Charles and St. Mary's counties were opening warming shelters to house 7,000 customers without power. About 4,000 homes and businesses in Southern Maryland remained without electricity at 10 p.m.

And an Amtrak train gave 140 passengers a marathon ride from Washington to Newport News, arriving 16 hours late because of a freight train derailment and snow on the tracks.

President Obama might have taken note after grousing last month when Sidwell Friends School, where his children go, closed for a smaller storm. "This might be what the president considers a serious snowstorm," his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said. Sidwell was closed again yesterday, and public schools in the District opened two hours late.

Schools were closed in Montgomery County for the third snow day this year and in Fairfax and Prince George's counties, for the second. All three school systems announced two-hour delays for today.

Virginia declared a state of emergency, calling it the worst storm in eight years. Local airports saw numerous delays and cancellations, although operations were mostly back to normal by late afternoon.

The system, which dropped four to 12 inches across the area, was welcomed by forecasters. Last month was the driest February on record, and precipitation has been below average since September.


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