The latest of six February snowstorms, which have visited the Washington area with the annoying frequency of an unwelcome relative, brought considerably less snow than forecasters had predicted, barely coating streets late last night and melting as it struck roads.

Area snow removal agencies, expecting between two and four inches, were met instead with a late-starting storm that agreeably began as the evening rush hour was ending, leaving most streets wet but passable.

Bob Oszajca, a forecaster for the National Weather Service, said early this morning that the storm's intensity was diminishing and most areas would receive between one and three inches. Apparently, the warm roads kept the snow from accumulating in many areas, he added.

The most significant accumulations were expected to occur in Northern Virginia and southern Maryland. Snow flurries were to continue through the morning and end about noon with temperatures in the 30s.

By midnight, only an inch of snow had been recorded at National Airport, and Oszajca said he expected the light but steady snow would cover only grassy areas and cartops.

Andrew Gordon of the District's Department of Public Works, said sand and salt trucks would be standing by in case temperatures dipped suddenly, icing the streets and disrupting the morning rush hour.

"We're just happy it won't be that four inches they kept talking about. Even on most of the side streets we are still getting good reports, but the trucks will still be out there all night."

The frequent snowstorms including the one last night and on Monday have dumped more than twice the average amount of snow expected in February for the area. Weather forecasters said so far that 11.1 inches of snow have fallen in the Washington area compared to the average February accumulation of 5.5 inches.

This month's snowfall, however, is far from the record 35.2 inches recorded in February 1899, Weather Service forecaster Joe Cefaratti said.