Washington region gets up to 8 inches of snow

A storm that walloped southeastern states makes its way across the Washington region, leaving several inches of snow on the ground.
By Ann E. Marimow and Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 31, 2010

A winter storm expected to deliver little more than a dusting Saturday instead spoiled weekend plans and interrupted public transportation as it dumped up to eight inches of powdery snow throughout the Washington region.

Before arriving early Saturday, the storm blasted the Southeast, downing power lines, causing highway pileups and dumping about a foot of snow in the Richmond area and in parts of Western North Carolina.

In this region, forecasters initially predicted a minimal impact, but the storm led to a long list of closures, scores of traffic accidents and limited bus service, as well as small delays and cancellations at the region's airports.

"It has exceeded expectations and proved to be more snow than all of us were predicting," said Dan Stillman of the Capital Weather Gang.

Before this snowfall, the region had surpassed the winter average of eight inches. As of Friday, Stillman said, 17.6 inches had fallen at Reagan National Airport. But it was the second straight storm that arrived on a Saturday, its weekend landing appreciated by those who, unlike on a workday, could stay close to home.

Still, some felt compelled to leave the house.

At East Potomac Park on Saturday morning, a foursome of golf addicts called it quits after five holes when they could no longer putt and had lost too many balls in the thickening white cover. Emerging from the course mid-morning, the lawyers and economists had icicles hanging from their thick mustaches and eyebrows.

"If it were just cold, it wouldn't be that bad, but the snow makes it impossible," said District resident Hilton Foster, 64, a retired government lawyer, who lamented forgetting to bring yellow or orange balls for the outing.

Transportation officials got a head start on treating major roads with a salty spray and deployed hundreds of trucks and plows on streets and highways. But some residents said they were caught off guard.

Even before the snow started falling, Maryland and Northern Virginia transportation officials said they had blown through their annual budgets for snow removal. The District was also on track to exceed its budget. Officials pointed to last month's record storm, which dropped more than two feet in some areas around Washington, plus smaller recent storms, for bumping spending into the red.

"It's been a crazy winter," said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for Virginia's Department of Transportation.

With wind-chill temperatures in the single digits, roads were slippery and slushy. Lane markings were obscured, and some interstates in Maryland were down to one lane in each direction. In Northern Virginia, the Transportation Department ramped up its presence from 1,200 to 1,800 trucks and plows to try to keep up.

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