A fast-moving winter storm had dumped up to seven inches of snow on some parts of the Washington area by yesterday morning, and in a region that usually suffers angst at the mere thought of flurries, something else began to emerge.
Call the folks jaded.
"It's getting kind of old," said 12-year-old Kelly Lawhorn of Silver Spring, who put shopping before snow yesterday, as she and her friend Kate Hollis scoured the Mall of Columbia for Valentine's Day gifts for their boyfriends. It was the fifth snow day this school year for them.
Just the excuse that Frank Halliwell of Annapolis needed to take a three-day weekend.
"I just didn't want to drive in to D.C.," the Navy mechanical engineer said, walking his Rottweiler, Dakota, through Truxton Park. "I'll probably start my taxes."
The storm, traveling north across the Carolinas and packing moisture from the Atlantic Ocean, blanketed the area with enough snow to close schools throughout the region and to prompt the deployment of hundreds of salt spreaders and snowplows. The weather was blamed for one traffic death.
An occupant of a minivan was killed and the driver of a tractor-trailer was critically injured yesterday afternoon when their vehicles collided on southbound Interstate 95 near College Park, Maryland State Police said. Authorities blamed slick roads.
Snow accumulations of as much as six to eight inches also were reported in Pennsylvania and in the New York-New Jersey area, forcing dozens of flight cancellations at airports along the Eastern Seaboard. Nearly a third of the 130 flights scheduled to depart before noon from Baltimore-Washington International Airport were canceled or delayed, while 30 early-morning flights from Reagan National Airport were canceled, officials said.
A high-pressure front trailing the storm should bring sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures to Washington today, the National Weather Service said. Then, an area of low pressure that is developing over the Great Lakes is expected to bring a cold front -- and a 40 percent chance of snow -- into the region tomorrow night and early Monday. Temperatures in the low to upper 20s are forecasted.
"It won't be a lot of snow," said Trina Heiser of the Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling. "But it's too early to say."
Already this season, the area has recorded the most snow in years: 17.3 inches at BWI; 15.9 inches at Dulles International Airport; and 14.4 inches at National. Normal snowfall totals at this point in the winter season are 10.8 inches at BWI; 12.3 inches at Dulles; and 9.1 at National, according to the National Weather Service.
And yesterday's snowfall of 7.3 inches at BWI, 6.6 inches at National and 6.1 at Dulles exceeded the entire February average for each of the three airports.
As a result, local snow removal budgets that were based on previous winters are falling into the red.
The District budgeted $3.2 million for snow removal -- roughly the same amount it has allocated for the past few years -- and the city already has spent $3.7 million, said Mary Myers, a Department of Public Works spokeswoman.
This latest storm "definitely busted the budget" of $48 million for snow removal in Virginia, according to the state Department of Transportation. VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris said the state will shift money from other maintenance budgets into snow and ice removal if necessary.
"If we bust the budget, so be it. We are going to clear the roads, regardless," she said.
Valerie Burnette Eggar, a Maryland State Highway Administration spokeswoman, said the state had already spent the $21 million it budgeted for snow removal, topping $29 million for labor and snow-removing materials as of yesterday. More than half of that was spent in Western Maryland, where the snow season often starts in October and doesn't end until April. She said highway officials would ask the General Assembly for additional funds to cover costs.
The so-called snow-days cushion for most area school systems also was depleted by this latest storm. Schools in Montgomery, Fairfax and Arlington counties said students would be forced to make up snow days by attending school on holidays and in the summer -- but not in Loudoun County, which has a "fixed calendar."
The standard school year in Loudoun is 185 days -- five days more than required by state law -- giving the county a comfortable snow cushion. In addition, Virginia law requires school systems to make up only five days of school if they miss between five and 10 days for snow or other emergencies.
"We look at this as a win-win," Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde B. Byard said. "We get extra instructional time, and we're covered in terms of snow emergencies."
The region's adult equivalent of snow day cancellations -- a "liberal leave" policy -- was liberally used yesterday to make three-day weekends.
Amy Cruice and Peter Cimbolic took advantage of the policy to go shopping at the Harbor Center in Annapolis for what could become this season's de rigueur item.
"Snowshoes?" Cimbolic inquired as the two strolled into Eastern Mountain Sports, where clerks were putting out spring merchandise.
"You got it," a red-headed clerk said, going into the back and returning with two sets of metal-framed snowshoes.
"I've always wanted to do this," Cruice said as they left the store with their purchases. "I grew up in Michigan, but it's too frigid to do this there."
A little snowshoeing, to be followed, they said, by a movie marathon and plenty of popcorn. Just what the weather called for.
Staff writers William Branigin, Rosalind S. Helderman, Nelson Hernandez, Anita Huslin, Ylan Q. Mui, David Nakamura, Vikki Ortiz, Katherine Shaver, Jamie Stockwell and Martin Weil contributed to this report.