For two days, Washington watched, waited and made ready for a potentially paralyzing snowstorm.
We studied the news on every channel, dialed telephone weather to compare, heard forecasts of one to three inches, two to four inches, up to 10 inches.
All we got were a few flakes. They fell after dark last night, whitening the tops of cars, moistening the city's streets.
This area received a barely discernable share of a storm that brought snow to much of the northern Appalachians and the northeast. While depths of six or seven inches were recorded in various places north of here, nothing meteorological seemed to happen in Washington that was adequate to justify the traditional prestorm ritual of cancelled trips, concerned calls to the state police, and urgent excursions to stores to stock up on salt for the sidewalks and canned food for survival.
By 10 p.m., snow of varying degrees of lightness was falling at Dulles, National and Baltimore Washington airports, and accumulations of less than an inch were expected, mainly north and west of the city.
Partly cloudy skies are expected here today, with little chance of precipitation forecast through mid-week. Temperatures today are expected to reach the mid-30s and dip into the lower 20s tonight. Temperatures should remain much the same through mid-week.
"Boy," National Weather Service meteorologist Amet Figueroa said of Washington's expected snowstorm, "it sure looked like a sure thing."
"If it developed to the south, it would have been significant," said Cliff Crowley, another weather service meteorologist.
The low pressure system that on Friday seemed to be heading toward Washington from the central plains "lost its identity over the Appalachian Mountains, then reformed itself off the southern New Jersey coast," Crowley said.
The storm was part of a low pressure system that moved through the central plains and dumped up to eight inches of snow in the Great Lakes region Friday before weakening and moving east.
It dusted Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee before heading into the Northeast where it brought what appeared to be the first significant snowfalls of the winter to parts of a region where temperatures have been averaging above normal for weeks.
About four inches of snow was measured in Elmira, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls, N.Y. and almost seven inches near Allentown, Pa. and in parts of western Massachusetts. In Cambridge, Mass., no accumulations had been spotted by nightfall, but predictions of up to one foot remained in the air and authorities took no chances. They called a snow emergency at 6 p.m.
In New York City,however, where 1,700 workers and 1,300 snowplows had been mobilized earlier in the day, the National Weather Service downgraded its winter storm warning last night to a travelers advisory as rain appeared in place of the anticipated heavy snow.
In the Adirondack Mountains, an Indian did a snow dance, but the three to five inches of snow expected over the weekend was not believed enough to help ailing ski resorts.
Back in Washington, where students of football strategy had discussed the possible effect of the anticipated storm on yesterday's football game plan, the Redskins won without having to consider any snow option. And authorities who had promised that the roads to RFK would remain open, had an easy time fulfilling their pledge.