While much of Northern Virginia was immobilized by the biggest snowstorm in years, James Joppich was on the road.
Joppich, 35, stashed a shovel and chain in the back of his Chevy Tahoe and shuttled doctors, nurses and patients to Loudoun Hospital Center's Lansdowne and Leesburg campuses. A volunteer driver with the hospital for a few years, he was a little disappointed that he didn't get to spend much time enjoying the snow with his wife and three sons but said he knew there would be time to play once the roads had cleared a bit.
"Everybody's got to do their part," said Joppich of Herndon. "What comes around, goes around. I know I'll need help one day doing stuff, and hopefully people will stop and help me."
Loudoun and Fauquier county officials said Joppich was one of many good Samaritans who braved knee-deep and deeper snow to check on neighbors or assist stranded motorists. But for many people, the storm was an excuse to take it easy over the long President's Day weekend before the digging out began in earnest Tuesday.
The National Weather Service reported that 35 inches of snow fell Sunday through Tuesday in Linden, on the border of Fauquier and Warren counties. Warrenton had 26.5 inches, and Lucketts was close behind with 25.8 inches. Slightly more than 21 inches fell at the weather service's Sterling office.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no serious accidents or injuries had been reported in Loudoun or Fauquier, where a Boy Scout troop was rescued from a park Monday. Although many secondary roads were still impassable, most main roads were clear, and many businesses had reopened.
But even with snowplows working around the clock, it quickly became clear that it would take some time for people to navigate safely.
Loudoun public school officials canceled classes all week, saying that buses would have difficulty navigating back roads and that it could be dangerous for children to wait at a snow-covered bus stop. Director of Transportation J. Michael Lunsford said that as of Tuesday afternoon, he thought that only one of the school system's 470 buses had been dug free of massive snow drifts.
"A lot of the roads haven't been plowed or are one lane," he said. "There's no place for kids to walk. There's no place for kids to stand at bus stops. There's just so much snow."
The storm also forced organizers of the Casanova Hunt to cancel its annual point-to-point steeplechase races, being held for the first time at the 500-acre Buckland Farm, about five miles east of Warrenton.
About 8,000 people had been expected to attend Saturday's eight scheduled steeplechase races, featuring more than 100 horses. Organizers said they didn't know whether the event would be rescheduled.
Public safety officials said they responded to many calls over the weekend but were relieved that no one was seriously injured in the storm.
Fauquier Sheriff Joe Higgs said that the snow left a Boy Scout troop stranded in Big Mac Park near Hume over the weekend but that county rescuers and Virginia Department of Transportation workers were able to reach the 12 children, ages 11 to 17, and six adults and helped them out.
The group was staying in a heated cabin, but its vehicles became buried in snow drifts, and they were running low on food, Higgs said. About 10 p.m. Monday, a parent contacted 911 using a radio. Higgs said that clearing nearby roads took about three hours but that the campers escaped safely.
As people began to emerge from their homes in midweek, the potential for slips and snow-shoveling injuries increased, and authorities warned residents to be cautious.
Officials also urged people to watch their homes and businesses for signs of strain after the roofs of a vacant Purcellville area barn and a Fauquier gas station collapsed under the weight of snow.
In addition, fire officials asked residents to clear space around fire hydrants near their homes so firefighters could reach them in case of an emergency.
Leesburg officials said that workers with Waste Management, which is under contract with the town, would try to collect trash this week but that recycling was canceled for the week.
Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd said the town's plow drivers started with main roads but made it though all the subdivisions by midnight Tuesday. She said that they would continue working but that progress would come slowly.
At Linden Vineyards, owner Jim Law said he was enjoying the scenery but struggling to prune the vines.
"It's gorgeous, but it's exhausting to do anything," Law said. He said he was thigh-deep in snow when he had to venture to his shed to get more fuel for the tractor. But Law said he had no complaints. Even though the snow was tough on him and his employees, he said the moisture ultimately would be great for the vines -- and the wine.
Loudoun Supervisor Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge) said she spent part of her weekend tromping through the snow to feed her six horses. But she also took time to videotape her family's Round Hill farm and said she'll send the tape to her son and his fiancee, who live in Tampa, Fla.
"They love the snow, it's so they can have a sense of what they missed," Towe said. "It's so beautiful."