Southern Maryland was on the front line of the Washington area's first brush with winter this week.
More flakes piled up in St. Mary's, Calvert and Charles counties Monday and early Tuesday than in the District and inner suburbs, bringing a mix of danger because of icy conditions on some roads and elation when county schools closed early and opened late.
At mid-week, forecasters were predicting a second storm could bring more snow as early as tonight or tomorrow.
On Tuesday, the Maryland State Police were still investigating the death of a 5-year-old Charlotte Hall boy who was killed Monday night while riding with two young siblings on a sled pulled by an all-terrain vehicle. The sled carrying Jeremy C. Caleco was struck when a Honda Accord swerved off Route 6, police said.
At the time, a sheet of snow covered the ground, making it difficult to discern the road'sboundaries, and authorities were trying to determine whether the ATV was on or just close to Route 6.
The snowy conditions played a part in several wrecks across Southern Maryland on Tuesday. In Charles County, wet roads and icy patches sent at least 20 vehicles sliding into ditches and embankments, the sheriff's office said.
Also along Route 6, a black Nissan Frontier truck driven by Michael B. Riess, 18, of Mechanicsville swerved off the road, struck a mailbox and slammed through a utility pole before coming to a stop in a twisted hulk under a tree, police said.
Riess was driving west on Route 6 about 10:30 a.m. near the intersection with La Plata Road when he lost control of the truck, said Trooper Mike Cox of the state police. Riess told Cox that he was driving about 60 mph in a 45 mph zone and believed he hit some black ice, Cox said, referring to the thin, nearly invisible sheet of ice that becomes a road hazard during winter.
"He just spun out," said Nolan Woodland, who was driving a Charles County school bus behind Riess and saw the accident.
Riess was placed on a stretcher and flown by helicopter to Prince George's Hospital Center, Cox said.
When the utility pole was severed, power to nine customers was cut; repairs were completed about 3 p.m., said Ann Knott, a spokeswoman for the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative.
Across the region, the snowstorm directly caused only 11 scattered outages for SMECO customers, Knott said. About 800 customers also lost power about 9:45 a.m. when a tree fell on a feeder line in Calvert County, but Knott said she did not know whether that incident was weather-related.
Road crews had cleared most major routes in Southern Maryland by Tuesday morning. Schools in Calvert and Charles counties opened two hours late, and those in St. Mary's were closed all day.
For fourth-grader Dakota Harris the fact that he lives in Charlotte Hall, near the St. Mary's-Charles county line, made attending school even more frustrating. Standing in his boxer shorts as he got dressed at home Tuesday morning, he held his hands together and pleaded with his mother.
"I don't want to go to school," said Dakota, 9, who attends the Calverton School, a private school in Calvert County. "Can't we just go over across the line, and I won't have to go to school?"
His mother, Ginger Byron, 36, was not too pleased, either. She did not have to work in her Waldorf real estate office, but she did have to drive her son 45 minutes to school.
"I think it's ridiculous," she said. "I just spent a half-hour cleaning my car off."
As the storm moved into the region Monday afternoon, its inaugural flakes were greeted with open arms and mouths at Jenifer Elementary School in Charles County. Dozens of children, thickly bundled, squealed with joy as they twirled around, stretched out their tongues and tried to catch the first fat fluffs of snow.
"It gets kind of wild and crazy," said Principal Susie Fowler, who in her ninth winter as principal came to work with a strategy. "When they told us it would be a snow day, we printed it out on a piece of paper and delivered it to the teachers in each class," she said of the notice that classes would dismiss early that day. "The last thing you want to do is announce it over the intercom. Once the kids find out, their minds are already out there, playing in the snow."
Lauren Jones, a teacher at the school, gave up her lesson plan on math and assigned her students an essay about what they would do if they had a snow day.
"It's pointless to try to fight it," she said. "Sometimes you got to go with the tide."
For some parents, it was a different story. With three boys ages 4, 5 and 6, Shellie Perrie said the early closings put a serious dent in her afternoon schedule.
"I was kind of counting on getting some grocery shopping done in the afternoon," she said. As she waited for her son Josh, she started worrying about how to keep the energetic boys busy enough at home to make it through the day.
"Maybe we'll do reindeer ornaments or garlands. I keep a running list in my head in case these things happen," she said.
Schools throughout Southern Maryland reacted swiftly Monday, announcing early dismissals even before snow started falling. Delivering children home by bus is somewhat more challenging in these rural counties, transportation officials said. The sloping roads of new subdivisons and sharp bends and dips of many back roads are not the first stop for plows or salt trucks.
"We wanted to try to beat the storm before the heavy snow arrived," said Santy DiSabatino, the director of transportation for Charles County's public schools, "to deliver the kids home safely before there's a chance to accumulate."
Staff writer William Wan contributed to this report.