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Historic snowstorm in D.C. leaves a mess to be reckoned with

After two recent snowstorms closed the federal government and schools across the region, people began digging out. The season's snow tally in D.C. reached 55.6 inches Wednesday -- more than the last record of 54.4 inches, set in 1898-99.

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By Carol Morello and Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 7, 2010

In whiteout, many things come to standstill

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The Washington region was paralyzed by a blizzard that dumped more than two feet of heavy snow on the area by late Saturday, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people, toppling trees and reducing many streets to pedestrian pathways.

Almost 218,000 homes and business were without power at the outages' peak, and many had no heat midday Saturday at the height of the storm. By late last night, about 140,000 were still in the dark. Pepco advised customers to seek other lodging, saying it could take days to restore power to everyone. Some residents abandoned their cold, dark houses and checked into hotels. Others were trapped on side streets as snowplows concentrated on keeping major arteries clear.

So much snow fell, nonstop, that even plows occasionally became stuck and crews ran out of places to push piles from roads they cleared again and again. District transportation officials warned of huge snowbanks at intersections and said they would interfere with motorists' sight lines for days to come.

Many people needed superlatives to describe the storm.

"As much snow as any one of us have seen in our lifetime," District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said.

"This is the worst," said Joan Mancuso, 70, who has lived in her two-story house on Tildenwood Drive in Rockville for 41 years.

Across the region, snowfall totals approached or broke records. For the first time in at least 30 years, the U.S. Postal Service did not deliver mail Saturday, citing the safety of customers and employees alike. Popular attractions such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, Smithsonian museums and the White House were closed to visitors.

National Park Service workers cleared icy walkways and rescued stranded motorists. Officials could not recall another blanket closure like this one.

"With the high winds and driving snow, you can't even see the top of the Washington Monument from the base," said Sgt. David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman.

Officials said they were considering opening shelters for people who have lost electricity.

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