The Washington area's most snow-ridden February in 80 years appears to be ending on a less wintry note, with mild weather yesterday and sunshine predicted for today.
Yesterday's temperatures reached a high of 44 degrees at 12:40 p.m., as measured at National Airport. The National Weather Service has forecast warmer weather today, with sunny skies and highs of 48 to 53 degrees. Forecasters said March may start gloomily, with increasing cloudiness and a chance of rain Thursday and possible rainfall through the weekend.
This month's snowfall totaled 30.6 inches -- the largest amount for any February since 1899, when 35.2 inches were recorded for the month, according to weather officials at National Airport. The snow combined with heavy rain to produce some flooding, numerous potholes and the most precipitation for any February in 18 years officials said.
This month's precipitation -- both rain and snow -- amounted to 5.62 inches, the highest February total since 5.71 inches fell in February 1961, officials at National Airport's weather monitoring station said.
The rain and snow also caused the greatest rate of flow for the Potomac River for any February since the U.S. Geological Survey began keeping such records in 1930. The river reached a peak of 132 billion gallons a day Monday and yesterday at a monitoring point at Little Falls, a Geological Survey spokesman said.
The Potomac rose to about three to four feet above flood level in the Washington area, causing some flooding of streets and waterfront buildings in Alexandria and the District of Columbia. "It's crested every place on the Potomac," said Leo Harrison, a National Weather Service hydrologist. "Now it's receding."
The flooding caused by the overflow from the Potomac and other rivers in the Washington region and by runoff from rain and melting snow appeared to have largely ended by last night, according to weather and transportation officials.
The most troublesome problem spawned by the unusually wet February weather, some officials said yesterday, was potholes.
On Sunday, the D.C. government announced an emergency plan to repair potholes with temporary asphalt patches on main thoroughfares. City transportation officials said yesterday that an around-the-clock effort by 29 pothole repair crews had restored many of the District's most pitted streets, although the officials conceded that thousands of potholes remained.
"We've gotten the deep ones," said Gary Wendt, traffic operations chief for the D.C. Department of Transportation. "But there's going to be a lot of bad pavement out there." Wendt said permanent repairs of potholes would begin next week.
Mayor Marion Barry, who ordered the antipothole effort, described himself last night as "satisfied" with the undertaking and added, "Things seem to be going well."
In Maryland, State Highway Administration engineer William Shook said that potholes plagued numerous roadways, including Rte. 4 (Pennsylvania Avenue), Georgia Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, University Boulevard, Viers Mill Road, Branch Avenue and parts of the Capital Beltway.
Virginia highway engineer Donald E. Keith described Northern Virginia's potholes as "a little bit more profuse" htan normal, but cautioned that they would grow considerably more numerous by spring. "It's not over," he warned.