Strong winds combined yesterday with plunging temperatures to make it even colder than it has been for the past week, a pattern that is expected to continue at least through Friday.
As the wind-chill factor drove the effective temperature down to zero and below in the area, hospitals reported hundreds or suburban residents being treated for broken bones and sprains because of slippery sidewalks and ice patches in the streets.
In Maryland, at least two men were killed and five injured in separate accidents caused by icy driving conditions.
The howling winds that arrived yesterday afternoon and the forecast of possible snow by Tuesday evening in some areas also contributed to continued scarcities in the area. Residents continued to consume fuel at a furious pace. Many home owners belatedly sought storm windows, salt, sand and woolen mittens only to find stores sold out.
Some suburban service stations still were clogged with motorists trying to get snow tires mounted.
In the Carole Highlands sections of Takona Park, a water storage tower owned by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission apparently accidentally spilled hundreds of gallons of water, which rushed down 16th Avenue and quickly froze as it hit cars and sidewalks. By mid-afternoon some residents had simply quit trying to get up their hillside street, which the day before had been free of ice.
William Richard Dempsey, 26, 3234 Hewitt Ave., Silver Spring, was killed early Sunday morning when his car skidded on a patch of ice in Anne Arundel County, slid into another lane, and was hit broadside by an oncoming car, State Police said. A companion, Maureen Rae Ellis, 25, of the same address, and two people in the second car, were injured.
John Ross Skiles, 26, 212 North Shumacker Dr., Salisbury, Md., was killed when his car went out of control on ice in Somerset County and crashed into a tree, also injuring two passengers according to State Police.
"Oh, my, we were very busy" over the weekend, said Mary Ann Kurmenacker, assistant nursing director at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. "We had lots of cuts and bruises and bumps on the head and sprains and things like that, which were caused by falls."
Normally Holy Cross handles between 80 and 100 emergency room cases during one shift, but yesterday 123 people asked for treatment, mostly for minor accidents cause by the icy weather, she said.
The situation in suburban Maryland was paralleled by conditions in surburban Virginia, where more than half of the 181 emergency room visitors at Alexandria Hospital were admitted for sprains and falls on the treacherous ice, according to Very Larry, secretary of the emergency room.
District of Columbia hospitals were not reporting increased patient loads, a fact which did not surprise weather service forecaster. "The temperature normally is warmer in the city than the suburbs, because the concentrations of thousands of people in a densely packed area causes the temperature to rise there a few degrees," said forecaster George Schelein.
Although the weather Sunday was cold everywhere throughout the metropolitan area it was colder and more ice-forming in the suburbs, he said.
The chill weather system streaming in from the Ohio Valley - where ice clogged the Mississippi River as temperatures hovered near zero - promised to bring winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour, the weather service said.
Such winds, combining with extremely low temperatures migh actually create a local wind-chill factor of more than minus 40 degrees below zero for a brief period of time. "It's a complicated scale, there is no one figure that can be used to measure it," he noted.
At 4 p.m. yesterday, with the thermometer at National Aport reading 25 degrees, the 15-mile-per-hour wind actually created a wind chill factor of zero degrees.
A spokesman for the National Audubon Society suggested that it might be permissible "until the ground is clear of ice" for people to throw birdseed, suet, and other edibles on the ground for the area's about 80 flocks of birds.
"Normally we don't recommend this, because once they get on the dole they never get off," said Joseph P. Linduska, an Audubon official, "but in a critical period I guess it's all right.
It's really survival of the fittest," he said. "Those that make it through this winter will be at the top of the heap," he said.