Elizabeth Gianini was awake but still in bed in her Georgetown apartment when her BlackBerry pager buzzed at 7 a.m.
I am up. The snow is beautiful. Are you awake? was the message from her friend Alison Bowman, a few blocks away.
Is it still coming down? Gianini, 32, typed back. Want to have breakfast?
After a call to make sure it was open, they met for French toast and Belgian waffles at the Daily Grill at Wisconsin Avenue and N Street NW.
By 10 a.m., Gianini had trudged several blocks up Wisconsin to buy laundry detergent and other essentials at the Safeway.
She planned to spend the rest of the day at home, wearing fuzzy blue Cookie Monster slippers, washing her clothes and watching the white stuff come down.
"I'm from the South, and I just think it's gorgeous," she said of the fine, grainy snow falling thickly on her leopard-print hat. "Georgetown is never as pretty as in the snow."
-- Debbi Wilgoren
At 2:30 p.m. in Vienna's Wayside community, the scene outside snowplow operator Bill Harrison's Ford pickup was winter at its fiercest. Inside the truck, Harrison was dressed for a different season, in a T-shirt and khaki pants.
In this weather, Harrison said, he has to keep the heat in the truck cranked up to blast-furnace level so the unending shower of flakes won't freeze on his windows and put him out of business.
Back and forth, back and forth the 2000 Ford diesel roared, Harrison's left hand on the wheel and his right hand guiding the plow with a thumb-operated device. He punched a button. The plow whined to the right and shoved a mountain of snow higher than the truck's hood hard against the side of the road. Back it up again. Turn slightly. Punch it again. The plow whined to the left and another mountain of snow rose up before the truck.
Harrison, a contractor for the Virginia Department of Transportation, had a fleet of 15 trucks on the road yesterday, all doing their best to keep the side roads of Vienna, Reston and Herndon at least passable. State-owned dump trucks handle the main roads -- the "chemical routes," as they're called.
Cul-de-sacs are the worst, Harrison said. It's time-consuming and hard on the truck to clear those circles of white-encased pavement while looking for niches between the driveways to push the snow into. He tries not to block driveways, he said, but he often can't help it.
A shovel-wielding bundle of snow waved him over, and he rolled down his window. Will Harrison push the accumulated hip-deep snow out of her driveway's opening? the exhausted homeowner asked. Yes, he will. He'd just obliged her neighbor up the street, who'd told him he had a heart condition.
Harrison, 45, had been on the job since Friday night. Yesterday was the 12th day of plowing for his fleet this winter. Last year, the trucks plowed once.
Because of this winter's snowfalls, Harrison has missed spending Christmas Eve, Christmas, the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day with his wife, Deborah. The couple lives in Sterling.
But that's his job, Harrison said.
"The way I look at it, it's no different for a policeman or a fireman. It's the same kind of commitment."
And who was plowing his driveway while he was out there? Harrison grinned sheepishly.
-- Jacqueline L. Salmon
'We're Turning Around'
Jennifer Raymond was on a mission of mercy yesterday, aiming for her sister's house less than three-quarters of a mile away in Prince George's County with a Super Mario Sunshine GameCube for her 7-year-old nephew, a recent tonsillectomy patient.
In her Dodge Durango, Raymond made it down her steep hill and another two blocks beyond that, but then got intimidated. She and 12-year-old daughter Chelsea retreated as quickly as they dared.
"It was like we were floating through snow," Raymond said, her hair flecked by melting flakes. "I called on my cell phone and said, 'We're turning around,' and my sister said, 'No, no, no! . . . I think she wanted the company."
-- Susan Levine
Snow-Scuttled Blimp Ride
Mike Kennedy was going to fly in the Goodyear blimp yesterday, in Los Angeles, where the temperature was 60 degrees and there was nary a flake of snow to be seen.
He had a 3 p.m. ticket. "I've always wanted to go up," he said.
Instead, he sat in the 49 West Coffeehouse in Annapolis, where he had retreated for a meal of scrambled eggs and scones washed down with hot coffee. The few patrons there perked up when they heard him tell his story.
He had gotten a taxi to take him to the airport, leaving at 6:15 a.m. It was dark. The windshield wipers were frozen. And the cabby didn't know how to drive in the snow on Interstate 97.
"It was a . . . nightmare," Kennedy said. "She would floor it and it was fishtailing. I just put it in God's hands and closed my eyes."
God did not let him down. But no sooner did he arrive safely at Baltimore-Washington International Airport than he learned that all flights were canceled. He rented a Lincoln Navigator, that most massive of SUVs, for the journey home. There were no more taxis willing to brave the trip.
"I did my best," he said. "It doesn't do any good to get frustrated."
He left the cafe to walk his dog in the snow.
-- Nelson Hernandez
In Kensington, three high school students -- Brandon Collado, 16, Brian Sweeney, 16, and David Brenman, 15 -- trudged through fast-filling tire tracks in the street, shovels in hand, looking to turn the snow into cold cash by clearing sidewalks. Their offer: $20 to clear a walk, a little more on a corner property.
There were few takers. Most were reluctant to pay for the service with the snow still falling fast, the teenagers said. But they still made $65 yesterday, and they expected to make more when the snow let up. They were proud of their enterprise, proud enough to quibble over who had thought of it first.
"It was my idea," Brenman said.
"No, it was mine," Sweeney said.
Most households dickered over the price, they said, with some of the older potential customers offering anecdotes about how much more $20 would buy years ago.
"In this neighborhood, people are not poor, but they do not want to give it up," Brenman said. "The most common response is, 'My husband will do it later.' Or, 'My kids will do it later.' "
-- Fredrick Kunkle
A White Wedding Indeed
Lauren Hollander awoke on her Washington wedding day to a scene out of Siberia. The city was blanketed by a foot of snow and the flakes still were tumbling. The airports were closed, the trains running late, the status of many guests uncertain just hours before the ceremony.
It was a recipe for bridal meltdown. But Hollander, 28, remained uncommonly serene.
"It's disappointing the band might not be able to make it," she said calmly from her chair at a downtown salon as a stylist pinned intricate curls on top of her head. "But the bandleader lives in town. I told him he might just have to play DJ."
Then again, as native New Yorkers, neither she nor many of her attendants really understood what all the fuss was about.
"Is this really the only place open in town?" marveled upstate bridesmaid Christine Kempkes, wearing a green smock as she waited to get her up-do. "Things probably wouldn't close in Albany. They'd have the plows running all night, you know what I mean?"
Admittedly, the Hollander party had it somewhat easy: Most of the family and attendants had come into town by Thursday and were already holed up in the Capital Hilton, where both the ceremony and reception would be held. Still, there was the challenge of getting the freshly coiffed bride from the Andre Chreky salon back to the hotel -- a 50-yard dash across the 16th and K street intersection, by this point looking like a "Doctor Zhivago" snow globe.
Stylist Rodney Pinion explained that he would have to accompany her back to the hotel with a vanguard of umbrellas to finish the job usually completed in his chair. Otherwise, "the veil would be ruined," he said.
Meanwhile, salon manager Amal Zaari seemed to be taking her duties in the face of inclement weather as seriously as an emergency room physician or a postal employee. She had stayed overnight with friends near Dupont Circle and hitchhiked to the salon in order to be there on time for the Hollander party. Some of the stylists, she said, had started off at 7 a.m. for 2 1/2-hour commutes from Virginia. Just so everything would be perfect, perfect for Lauren Hollander on her big day.
Even the caterers had come through, with the mimosas and lemon tarts and chocolate-covered strawberries, Zaari noted proudly. And perhaps most touchingly, the salon pianist had braved the elements to make sure the bride was entertained while the stylists worked their magic.
"He walked all the way here," said Zaari, sounding genuinely moved. "Seven days a week, we're always here for the bridal party."
-- Amy Argetsinger