Snow, Glorious Snow

* A snowstorm closed area schools, snarled roads and created instant sledding hills yesterday.

Overall, the Washington area received 4 to 7 inches of the white stuff.

Montgomery County didn't even wait till the snow started falling to cancel school, making the decision Wednesday night. District Superintendent Paul L. Vance, on the other hand, announced yesterday morning that D.C. schools would open, then at the last minute changed his mind. Angry parents had to double back to pick up their kids.

While kids enjoyed one effect of the storm -- no school! -- it had other consequences. More than 1.6 million homes and businesses from Oklahoma to the Carolinas were without electricity as snow and ice snapped power lines. Airline flights were canceled and highways became as icy as hockey rinks. The storm was blamed for at least 18 deaths, mostly from traffic accidents.

At the White House, President Bush joked about taking his two small dogs into the snow for their morning walk: "Heh-heh. One of them disappeared!"

Public schools are closed again today in several area counties, including Prince George's, Montgomery, Fairfax and Loudoun. Winter begins Dec. 21.

Pricey Peek at Potter

* Want a sneak peek at the next Harry Potter novel? Then open your wallet next week.

Sotheby's, the British auction house, is auctioning off a single index card on which J.K. Rowling has written a few words from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." This "teaser" is expected to fetch more than $10,000. The money will go to Book Aid International, a charity that buys books for people in poor countries.

So, what's in the fifth book? You won't be able to tell much from the card. Sotheby's and Book Aid reveal only a few of the 93 words that Rowling penned. They include: Ron, broom, sacked, house-elf, new, teacher, dies and sorry.

The auction is being held Thursday. To see what the card looks like, go to www. and click on "News."

-- From staff and wire reports

A man skis to work near the Capitol.