The first significant winter storm of the season unleashed dangerous road conditions, shut down government offices, snarled air travel and closed schools in the nation’s capital, where deserted streets and snow-capped buildings on Sunday served as a fitting image for a city where many federal offices were already closed by a long shutdown.
Late Sunday, the Office of Personnel Management said in a tweet that federal offices in Washington not affected by the partial government shutdown would be closed Monday. The D.C. government also said it would be closed.
The death toll from the storm that ravaged parts of the Midwest appeared to rise after several people were killed in crashes in Virginia overnight Saturday and Sunday morning. Authorities across the region advised people to stay off the roads and exercise extreme caution if they needed to travel.
Metro’s bus service resumed Monday morning but was basically running only on major roadways. Its rail service was running normally. Virginia Railway Express (VRE) canceled its commuter train service for the day, and MARC train service was running on a limited schedule.
On Sunday night, Metro suspended bus operations, citing icy and hazardous roads, as temperatures fell.
According to the website FlightAware.com, 48 flights were delayed or canceled at the three Washington-area airports.
Most of the major school systems in the region — including the District; Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard and Anne Arundel counties in Maryland; and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Spotsylvania counties and the cities of Alexandria, Manassas and Manassas Park in Virginia — had announced by early evening that they would be closed Monday because of the weather. Howard University and the University of Maryland were among area colleges that announced closings.
According to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, it was the most snow Washington had received since the January 2016 blizzard. As of 7 p.m. Sunday, nearly nine inches of snow had been measured at Reagan National Airport. Measurements indicated as much as 10 inches had fallen around the area, with the highest amounts south of the city.
Slippery roads and an iced-over bridge were cited as factors in two of three fatal crashes that occurred in Virginia late Saturday and early Sunday, on Interstates 81 and 64 and on a rural road in Brunswick County, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. Only the Interstate 81 crash was considered “storm related,” however.
Ronald W. Harris, 73, of Gainesville, Ga., was killed Saturday night when he lost control of the M1074 military-surplus vehicle he was driving on a slippery road and was struck by two tractor-trailers on Interstate 81 in Pulaski County, according to Geller.
Early Sunday, a 16-year-old from Alberta, Va., was killed when a 1996 Dodge Ram pickup, driven by another 16-year-old, lost traction as it sped over an icy bridge and veered off the road, slamming into a tree. Police said speed and alcohol were factors in the crash, which was not officially declared “storm related.”
The Virginia deaths were the latest fatalities in a widespread storm that wreaked havoc on parts of the Midwest, killing at least nine people, leaving thousands without power and causing hundreds of traffic crashes. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said 57 people were injured and four were dead in that state alone.
In the D.C. region, the weather also affected air travel, leaving hundreds of flights in and out of Reagan National and Dulles International airports canceled. Nearly a third of departing flights at both airports were called off by noon, while about a quarter of arriving flights at the airports were canceled, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. Dozens more were delayed. Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport fared slightly better, but still counted dozens of delays and cancellations by afternoon.
Few cars were on the roads in the District and its suburbs Sunday, but many residents headed outside to enjoy the snow. Along the District’s usually bustling 14th Street corridor, business owners shoveled their sidewalks and children threw snow balls.
“Happy snow day!” Courtney Baldridge said, smiling as she greeted strangers along U Street NW.
Baldridge, 27, alternated between walking and skipping as she and her husband made their way through the snow to brunch. The Dallas native, who moved to the District in July, called the snow “redemption for the Cowboys’ loss last night,” referring to the National Football League playoffs.
Earlier, Baldridge had completed one of her snow-day traditions from childhood: tasting the fresh snow. (“You have to just take a little off the top,” she said.)
Cleaning snow off his minivan Sunday morning near the intersection of 16th Street and Arkansas Avenue NW, Nelson Lemos was not intimidated by what was shaping up to be a 24-hour snow event.
“I’m not worried about nothing,” he said. “Every year, this must happen at this time.”
Lemos, a construction worker from Honduras who came to the United States 17 years ago, said his children delighted in a meteorological phenomenon not seen in his homeland. “I like this place,” he said. “When we came to this country, we see something different. I really like it.”
Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman John Schofield said two roads were closed because of crashes early Sunday in Anne Arundel County. But by and large, he said, the area had benefited from the timing of the storm, coming on a weekend and with the brunt of the snow hitting overnight. Schofield said that from Anne Arundel southward, counties saw five to eight inches of snow, with more to the south.
“For a snow event that dropped this much precipitation, for us to look at the traffic screens statewide and see as much blacktop as we’re seeing is really quite remarkable,” he said. “In terms of scale, what you saw out in Missouri with major pileups and major incidents that really affected and paralyzed their network, we have yet to see that.”
Dominion Energy reported nearly 21,000 power outages Sunday morning, most of which were in Richmond and its suburbs, and caused by snow and freezing rain a spokesman said. Pepco reported fewer than 50 outages. A Dominion spokesman said outages were not expected in Northern Virginia.
Metro opened as scheduled Sunday, and no significant issues were reported — though some buses detoured around snowy roads, and riders faced delays, until bus service was suspended later in the evening.
The agency canceled rail maintenance plans for the weekend and reopened three stations in Northern Virginia, postponing planned weekend lighting upgrades and resuming service on the Blue and Yellow lines.
For some newcomers — to the region, to life — the first big snow in two winters was their first. In yards and parks, they puzzled out the D.C. area at its whitest and fluffiest. In a small playground within the black-and-white photo that was Sligo Creek Parkway in Takoma Park, Apollo Gardiner, 2½ , fell earnestly to the ground and flapped his first snow angel into being under his parents’ tutelage. He had already made his first snowman.
“It was sort of a snow . . . creature,” said his mother, Ruby Snyder, 33, a therapist.
“With a carrot,” Apollo said.
“Actually, this is my first good East Coast snow, too,” said father Steven Gardiner, 36, a Seattle native.
A non-furloughed lawyer for a federal agency, Gardiner has worked through the shutdown and will work Monday, through whatever gridlock the winter storm has left to offer. But Sunday was just for embracing the season.
Apollo continued to sit and ponder the white weirdness around him. Heavy plops fell from dark trees; the nearby creek was a gash of glossy black between marble banks.
“Snow is not water,” Apollo said suddenly and emphatically.
“Yes, it is,” said Ruby. “You’re surrounded by water.”
Apollo turned his hooded head this way and that.
“I want to go home,” he said.
Chloe Nelms, 9, was doubly enjoying the snow day. She and a friend were sledding down the hill next to Lafayette Elementary School in the District’s Chevy Chase neighborhood, and with the knowledge that she helped make it snow in the first place.
She said that a few years ago, she heard that if she wore her pajamas inside out and backward, it would snow while she slept. So Saturday night, she turned her nightclothes inside out and backward, and came downstairs to show her parents her plan.
When she woke up, there was snow waiting.
Steve Hendrix, Ashley Halsey, Justin Wm. Moyer, Donna St. George, Laura Meckler, Jenna Portnoy, Susan Svrluga and Martin Weil contributed to this report.