After five days of wet weather and gloomy skies, the sun shone brightly in Washington yesterday afternoon, but the temperatures fell to finger numbing levels and those venturing outdoors struggled against a strong, cold wind.
Whistling out of the northwest in the company of a Canadian cold front, the wind gusted as high as 44 miles an hour and knocked down visitors to the Washington Monument, forcing it to close early, according to a National Park Service aide.
Although Washington's temperature had fallen to freezing by 6 p.m. and was expected to fall to the middle 20s by daybreak, the metropolitan area was spared the main force of the storm that swept across Pennsylvania, New York and the Northeastern states, leaving nine inches of snow in a five hour period at Union City, Pa.
In addition, snow covered much of Southwest Virginia, and the Maryland state police said its snow plan went into effect at 7:30 a.m. in Garrett Country in the western part of the state. Accumulations of from four to six inches were reported there.
In Frederick County, five bridges on Rte. I70 were closed for an hour beginning about 6 a.m. as the arrival of the cold front, on the heels of earlier rainfall, caused icing.
In Leonardtown, Md., the state police reported snow flurries at 11 a.m. and at Dulles Airport a snow shower began at 9:02 a.m. and ended 13 minutes later, leaving no trace.
In Washington, yesterday's high temperature of 43 degrees came at about the time the daily low is usually reached - 4:45 a.m. With the arrival of the cold front from central Canada in the morning, the mercury sagged slowly towards the freezing mark as night fell.
Although the winds whipped the waters of the gray Potomac River into an endless sea of wavelets, and made the day seem even colder, normal or above normal complements of visistors were reported at such tourist attractions as National Zoo, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument - before it was closed 35 minutes early at 4:25 p.m.
"The wind will deck you," said park technician Karen Watson, at the monument, whose base is one of the city's windier spots. "Little kids (arriving there) got blown down," she said, "and some adults" did as well. No injuries were rerported.