The snow started again yesterday.

The third major snowfall in as many weeks glazed the area just before the evening rush hour, causing fender-bender accidents, minor traffic congestion and suburban snowball fights.

The snowfall-preceded early yesterday morning by a preview dusting of less than an inch-was mixed with rain in the District, and caused the early closing of outlying offices and stores.

The snow, expected to give the Washington area its heaviest January snowfall since 1948, was the local branch of a devasting winter weather system that has destroyed 75 per cent of the winter vegetable crop in Florida, melted snows in Alaska, and idled 4,500 workers in Georgia.

In West Virginia an 85-year old man was taken to a hospital on horseback when the snow vehicles could not negotiate drifts near his Preston County home.

The Ohio state legislature was called into emergency session to deal with the continuing bitter cold that has reduced that state's energy supplies to dangerous lows.

While snows have blurred skies elsewhere, they have not fallen in significant quantities in Colorado, where the state's ski industry faces a $10 million loss this year, according to a spokesman.

The National Weather Service forecast a possibility of snow flurries for the Washington area today, with temperature ranging as high as 40 degrees. Wednesday is expected to be sunny, with continued high temperatures, according to forecaster Chet Henricksen.

Yesterday's snowstorm struck the area first near Dulles Airport at about 4 p.m. then was pushed by 15-mile-per-hour winds into nearby Maryland countries. Snow did not begin falling in the District until about 5:30, weather officials reported.

Snow emergency measures were quickly put into effect in all local jurisdictions. Montgomery County's snow plows and sanding trucks were lined up along River Road near Wilson Lake by 4 p.m., according to police spokesman Richard E. Greene.

The powdery snow, which stuck to surfaces already frozen by the low temperatures, caused no major accidents early last night, but did cause dozens of minor collisions. Greene said.

"As soon as I hear the traffic reports. I know it's snowing I don't even have to look out the window." Greene said.

Fairfax County police reported they were "unable" to handle all the minor accident reports during the evening rush hour.

Yesterday's weather was relatively pleasant for much of the day. National Airport reported a high of 37 degrees, with cloudy skies, before the snow started falling.

Skaters, ignoring police warnings about thin ice, continued to skim over the frozen Potomac River. Efforts to determine the cause of the car-sized hole in the river ice south of Woodrow Wilson Bridge were unsuccessful, according to Prince George's County Police spokesman John Hoxie.

Federal and local officials were "totally frustrated" in their attempts to unlock the mystery of the hole, Hoxie said.

"A Coast Guard cutter was unable to break up the ice, and the Navy's amphibious vehicles couldn't get there because of the ice," he said.

"Scuba drivers from (Washington) police walked on the ice to the hole, but felt (ice) conditions were too unstable for them to go in," he added.

The hole was located 375 feet from the end of River Bend Road, one mile south of the bridge, according to county police spokeswoman Irene Hill.

"The drivers felt the tracks could only have been made by a vehicle," and not by someone rolling tires over the ice, reducing the likelihood of a hoax, Hoxie said.No footprints were seen on the ice by the drivers, where the river is eight to 20 feet deep, he added.

"We had officers there this morning, but mainly for crowd control. Dozens of people were coming around, wanting to see something," Hoxie said.

Locating something submerged in the river is complicated by the tide, which may have already pushed the vehicle down river, he said.

"If there is a car down there, and someone was in it, he wouldn't have lasted more than a few minutes in the freezing water. The shock would have killed him, if he did not drown," Hoxie said.

Efforts today will concentrate on breaking up the ice near the hole, which is about a foot thick, he added.

Ice-locked Tangier and Smith Islands in the mostly frozen Chesapeake Bay continued to be supplied with food and fuel by helicopter, although a broken water pump on Tangier left 200 of the island's hard-pressed residents without water.

Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin called the state's continued heating oil shortage "increasingly serious" and asked for municpal surveys to determine anticipated needs.

The General Services Administration followed up on President Carter's request and ordered all thermostats in federally owned and leased buildings to be turned down to 65 degrees.

In Galax, Va., and surrounding Carroll and Grayson counties, children spent one hour in their classes yesterday - the schools had been closed since before Christmas because of the bad weather - but within an hour they were sent home again as more snow started falling.