It began to warm up a little in the Washington area yesterday after two days of frigid conditions but along with the rising temperatures something new was expected by this morning: snow.
The National Weather Service forecast one to two inches of snow overnight, with possibly more accumulations later today. Temperatures were expected to be in the 30s.
The same shift in weather patterns that defrosted things a little yesterday was expected to cause the snow. Northwest winds that had brought cold Canadian air shifted and were blowing instead from the south and west, bringing warmer but moister air from the Gulf Coast, according to the National Weather Service. The meeting of moist air with cold, according to meteorologists, translates into snow.
After the single digit readings of Sunday and Monday, temperatures yesterday climbed to a high of 27, registered at 3 p.m., and life began to return, for most people anyway, to normal. But many of the problems caused by the bitter cold -- freezing pipes, heating failures and Metro delays -- lingered.
One death was attributed to the cold -- the third caused by exposure since Jan. 1, according to D.C. police.
James Childs, 44, was found unconscious in a 1933 Lincoln Continental in a private garage at 1029 Park Road NW early yesterday morning. Like the other cold fatalities this year, police said that Childs was a "street person" of no fixed address. Police suspect he may have been living in the car.
Despite the warming, the District of Columbia's emergency command post continued receiving no-heat calls, with a total of more than 500 logged since Sunday. Fire department crews were in a constant scramble yesterday answering calls about broken water lines.
Thousands of Metro rail commuters were late to work yesterday morning due to the freezing temperatures. Even though Metro had put some cars into protected tunnels for the night as a precaution, the morning rush hour began with about six of the required 256 cars out of service due to the cold, rail operations chief Joe Sheard said.
Then shortly after 7 a.m. a Red Line train to Van Ness, giving off clouds of smoke, was shut down at Dupont Circle and firefighters were called. Sheard said cold lubricating grease apparently caused the engine to overheat. Power was killed on one track and Metro called in buses to move stranded passengers.
Only minutes after the train was sent to a maintenance yard, another Red Line train failed at the Fort Totten station, apparently because of the same problem.
Later in the rush hour, as huge crowds built up on Red Line platforms and Metro gave sometimes conflicting explanations over loud-speakers, two more trains were shut down, one at Metro Center due to suspected brake proiblems and another at Dupont due to malfunctioning doors. It was unclear if those problems were weather-related.
At least 20 Takoma Park residents were still camped out in the City Hall after subfreezing temperatures burst a water pipe in their nine-story high-rise Monday night. Red Cross officials estimated that 150 residents were forced to seek shelter after gushing water flooded the building's electrical panels, forcing fire officials to evacuate the residents into the freezing night because of a fire threat.
Several of the residents said they received injuries, ranging from sprained backs to a cracked rib, as they fell in a foyer filled with ice as they srambled to leabe the building.
"The firemen banged on the door and really scared us," said Norma Parker, 22. "They said to get out, the building might go up. Naturally, you grab your kids and run. I didn't even see the ice," said Parker wearing a neck brace from a fall on the ice.
Most of the residents in the shelter said they had very little with them but the clothes they grabbed on the way out of the building at 7500 Maple Ave.
The bitter cold also made things particularly unpleasant for swimmers and staff members who had to evacuate the Colesville White Oak Swim Center in their bathing suits yesterday morning because of the accidental release of chlorine gas.
Thirty four persons were treated for respiratory problems.