Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this story, including in the print edition of The Washington Post, said Fairfax public schools would be closed today. The county schools are opening two hours late.

Snow Blankets Washington Region

Video
Residents of Northwest D.C. enjoy the morning snowfall. Video by Jennifer Crandall
By Michael E. Ruane, Michael Birnbaum and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 3, 2009; 9:25 AM

After a day of shoveling and sledding, Washingtonians woke up this morning to shiver-inducing temperatures, school closings or delayed openings in many jurisdictions and warnings to avoid icy walkways and roads.

Police and transportation officials reported mostly clear main roads and few accidents or traffic problems. "The roads are white instead of black because there's so much salt down," said Montgomery County police officer Kenneth O'Dell.

In Virginia, state transportation department spokeswoman Joan Morris said "the main roads are in very good shape, they're clear and dry for the most part. We've treated the hills and the curves in subdivisions, but motorists should expect icy patches and use extra caution."

With temperatures in the single digits and low teens, Morris cautioned, even liberal amounts of salt and sand won't eradicate thick patches of ice. "What is frozen is going to remain frozen," she said.

Metrorail was running normally, but Virginia Railways Express reported some delays related to equipment problems. Police in Charles and Calvert counties, which were among the hardest hit areas in yesterday's storm, reported some ice and drifting snow on back roads, but said motorists who use caution should be able to navigate safely.

Wind chill 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.

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.

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. 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.


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