If Washington didn't exactly freeze in its tracks yesterday, some of the tracks left from Monday's snowfall did freeze solid as a blast of Arctic air sent temperatures plummeting.

Icy conditions forced schools to close in several suburban counties and delayed classes in others. But area traffic officials reported few lingering problems from the snowfall, which largely disappeared in relatively balmy temperatures Monday afternoon.

Washingtonians apparently reacted to the potential for slippery roads with caution and yesterday's rush-hour traffic proceeded without major incident. "It was rather smooth," said Sgt. R.E. Waters of the Maryland State Police. "Everybody behaved themselves for a change."

Schools closed in Montgomery, Loudoun and Prince William counties, while schools in Prince George's County opened an hour late. School officials in most areas were expecting to operate on a normal schedule today, but cautioned that delays are possible depending on road conditions.

Officials in Loudoun County announced that school there will open one hour late this morning. In the District, where the snow disappeared quickly from city streets, school operations were unaffected by the weather.

Winds of 15 to 25 miles an hour and gusts even higher combined with temperatures in the low 20s to produce a windchill factor of minus 6 degrees at midday yesterday. Cold weather is expected to remain in the area through the week, gradually warming toward the weekend. And there should be some immediate relief from the cold as winds taper off overnight.

"We won't have the windchill conditions to contend with," said National Weather Service forecaster Scott Prosise.

The Weather Service predicted continuing sunny skies, with temperatures in the mid-20s today and climbing into the 30s by Friday.

Monday's wet snowfall left up to six inches in some outlying areas, bringing down tree branches and power lines, and temporarily cutting off power to more than 14,000 homes in the suburbs. The brief storm was the result of a collision of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and a cold front that slammed into the East Coast from the north.

A low-pressure system continues to drive cold air into the area, freezing isolated patches on secondary roads. Metro trains were unaffected by the cold. But the 3-B bus line in the Pimmit Hills area of Fairfax County was rerouted briefly yesterday morning, as was the B-8 line to Fort Lincoln in the District.

After reaching a high for the day of 35 degrees shortly after midnight, yesterday's temperatures were well below the average range of 27 to 43 for this time of year.

But if statistics hold, this winter's worst may be past. February, just five days away, traditionally is warmer than January here by an average of 2.5 degrees.

Staff writers John Lancaster and Nell Henderson contributed to this report.