ALL RIGHT, so it was the light and powdery kind, with plenty of warning, on a Friday, with no nasty winds: but Greater Washington's snow commanders didn't freeze in their tracks this time. Neither did Metro's trains. From Flake One, what you saw this time was not a rerun of the infamous ice follies of last year but a successful run at the elements, in town and out. Snowplows galore were ready. Besides the full fleet of municipal machinery, Mayor Barry must have hired every private plow he could dig up to join the parade; they were rolling three abreast all over the right places. And this time, the cleanups didn't stop and start at the city lines; authorities on both sides of all borders seemed to be meshing blades effectively. Government offices were closed, and a good thing too.

The biggest difference can be traced back to the Big Botch of '87. Then, the federal government, city hall, Metro, suburban leaders and even your armed forces on land or on the Potomac were all on different wavelengths. In the public outrage that followed, a "snow summit" was convened by then-Fairfax Board of Supervisors chairman John F. Herrity. It proved to be more than silly sop. Under the auspices of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, regional authorities, federal government representatives and transit officials showed up, got down to business, came back in April and approved some serious plans.

Now they talk to each other, more than ever. Instead of blaming each other for closing down or not closing down federal or local government offices, they decide, once and for all, what the day's drill will be for governments, schools, emergency snow routes and the sharing and deployment of equipment. Nothing more than Management 101, perhaps, but yesterday things got cleaned up without great snarls, or hundreds of stranded motorists, or subway platforms full of misinformed, frozen commuters waiting to go to offices that would be closed if they got there. For those who had to be somewhere, it was a moving occasion.