The Washington area reveled in a day of unending snow globe enchantment, flakes falling hard and heavy from the early hours of the morning to deep into the night yesterday, transforming major roads into quiet cul-de-sacs and cul-de-sacs into polar landscapes under as much as two feet of snow.
A blizzard that could be considered epic by mid-Atlantic standards inspired such fantastic sights as snowboarding in Falls Church, cross-country skiing on Capitol Hill and tractor-sledding in Southern Maryland. On the White House lawn, President Bush's terrier and spaniel dogpaddled happily through snow that rose as high as their snouts.
The region's biggest storm in decades also may have been its most beautifully timed. The snow smothered a week's worth of jitters about war and terrorist-inspired Code Orange alerts.
And by arriving in the middle of a three-day weekend, it spared residents the usual grief of school closings and snarled traffic.
"It's a winter wonderland adventure. If you have nowhere to go, it's fun to be out in it," said Bill Ramsey, as he leisurely shoveled his Leesburg driveway and looked forward to a cocooning kind of night, with popcorn and Chardonnay in front of the TV.
"But if it's not cleared up by [tomorrow]," he added, "it'll be a different story."
It was the kind of snow that had to be seen for itself. A sort of premature cabin fever seemed to have seized the region by midday as families, some with cameras, wandered the streets to gawk at drifts deep enough to cover a kindergartner or camouflage a sports car.
Entire neighborhoods were reborn as Ansel Adams-like tableaux of black and white, eerily silent, with groves of trees bowed earthward under a thick topping of meringue. Sidewalks disappeared, sending pedestrians into the streets.
But as the snow kept tumbling in stinging wet gusts, many found that they preferred to experience it from a warm and cozy remove. The few restaurants and coffee shops that opened yesterday were filled with patrons who lingered over French toast or hot chocolate to gaze out the window at the powdery barrage.
There wasn't much to be done with this kind of snow -- icy dry, the texture of sand -- once you got over the novelty of looking at it. In Lusby, in Southern Maryland, Mike Shaw hit upon the brilliant idea of borrowing neighbor Debbie Funchion's vintage tractor so he could pull his children around on their sleds. But in Falls Church, Tom Curtis and three friends had little success with snowboarding. They couldn't coast down the hill very far without sinking.
"There's too much snow. You can't do anything," said Curtis, 17. "We tried to build a ramp, but it just crumbled apart."
At a Maine Avenue playground in Southwest Washington, 12-year-old Theo Tasker tried in vain to pack the grainy white powder in his hands.
"It's not wet enough," he said. "All this snow, and I can't even get a good snowball fight together."
His younger sister Karla looked up from the depths of her snow angel to agree. "The last snow was better," she said.
Managers of area ski resorts insisted that the quality of their snow was just fine, thank you.
"It's champagne powder. It couldn't get any better," crowed Manfred Locher, director of ski operations at Bryce Resort in Basye, Va.
But the slopes were unusually empty for a holiday weekend -- skiers just couldn't get there.
Or perhaps they just couldn't be bothered. Chris Rivera, manager of a Papa John's pizza outlet in Mitchellville, observed a certain bunker mentality take hold in the storm. He delivered twice as many pizzas as usual yesterday.
"People were stuck inside, and they wanted to eat pizza rather than cook," he said.
Kim Lloyd was happy to oblige with the cooking duties, preparing her traditional snowy-day feast of fried whiting and baked chicken breast for her husband, William, and daughters Chandra, 9, and Alicia, 5 -- as well as several sweet potato pies for her Lake Arbor neighbors.
"That's what she does when she gets bored," said William Lloyd. "In 1996, that bad snow storm, she made pies, and now people wait for them."
Back outside, the region's snow shovelers labored honorably but were outmatched as the tempest kept filling their freshly cleaned steps and driveways. On Capitol Hill, city-run plows rumbled every hour or so along main arteries, trailed here and there by a hard-core jogger in dogged pursuit of clear pavement. The side streets, meanwhile, fell farther and farther under the rippling drifts.
Bill Crews and Steve Kehoe were two of a few dozen cross-country skiers who turned Constitution Avenue and other thoroughfares into urban ski trails. "It's the best way to get around," said Crews, an advisory neighborhood commissioner.
Sally Harris Porter, though, might have disagreed. At 4 years old, she discovered an even easier way to move about in the snow. She plopped onto a plastic sled and let her father, Greg Porter, do the work, gliding along the hushed streets with a quiet smile on her face.