The DC metro area was likely to get 4 to 8 inches in its first significant snowfall of 2019.
The first significant winter storm of the season unleashed dangerous road conditions, snarled air travel and shuttered schools in the nation's capital Sunday, where deserted streets and snow-capped buildings served as a fitting image for a federal government shutdown that was stretching into its fourth week.
The death toll from the storm that ravaged parts of the Midwest appeared to rise after multiple people were killed in crashes in Virginia overnight Saturday and Sunday morning, and authorities across the region advised people to stay off the roads and exercise extreme caution if they needed to travel.
Most of the major school system in the region, including Prince George's County in Maryland and Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Prince William, Manassas and Spotsylvania in Virginia, had announced by late afternoon that they would be clossed Monday because of the weather. Howard University also will be closed.
According to The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, it was the most snow Washington had received since the January 2016 blizzard, and there was potential for an additional two to four inches of snow through the rest of Sunday. As of 1 p.m. nearly five-and-a-half inches of snow had been measured at Reagan National Airport. Storm totals of five to 10 inches were expected with the highest amounts south of the city.
Slippery roads and an iced-over bridge were cited as factors in two of the three fatal crashes that occurred in Virginia late Saturday and early Sunday, which occurred 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 declared as "storm-related," however.
Geller said Ronald W. Harris, 73, of Gainesville, Georgia, was killed Saturday night when the Oshkosh M1074 military surplus vehicle he was driving lost control on a slippery road and was struck by two semitractor-trailers on Interstate 81 in Pulaski County. The tractor-trailer drivers were hospitalized with injuries that were said to be not life-threatening.
And early Sunday, a teen 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. The Alberta, Virginia, teenager died; the driver was taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. Police said speed and alcohol factored in the crash, which was not officially declared "storm-related."
The Virginia deaths were the latest fatalities in a deadly storm that wrought havoc on parts of the Midwest, killing at least nine, leaving thousands without power and causing hundreds of traffic crashes. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said 57 were injured and four were dead in that state alone.
In the D.C.. region, the weather also impacted air travel – leaving hundreds of flights in and out of Reagan National and Dulles International airports canceled. Nearly a third of all departing flights at both airports were called off by noontime, while about a quarter of arriving flights at the airports were canceled, according to 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 D.C.'s usually bustling 14th Street corridor, shopkeepers shoveled their sidewalks and kids threw snow balls.
For some newcomers – to the region, to life – the first big snow in two winters was their first
"Happy snow day!" Courtney Baldridge said, smiling as she greeted strangers along U Street in Northwest D.C.
Baldrige, 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 D.C. in July, called the snow "redemption for the Cowboys' loss last night," referring to the NFL playoffs.
Earlier, Baldridge had completed one of her snow-day traditions from childhood and tasted 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. It was a day for rest – he had nowhere to go and nothing to do but enjoy his kids enjoying the weather.
"I like this place," he said. "When we came to this country, we see something different. I really like it."
John Schofield, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said two roads were closed because of crashes early Sunday in Anne Arundel County. By and large, however, 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 County southward, counties saw five to eight inches of snow, with higher amounts 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."
He said nearly 1,160 crew members were treating roads statewide.
Power outages were reported in some areas.
Dominion Energy reported nearly 21,000 power outages on Sunday morning, most of which were in Richmond and its suburbs. Pepco and Potomac Edison reported fewer than 50 outages.
Richard Zuercher, a spokesman for Dominion, said snow and freezing rain caused the outages around Richmond and Petersburg. He said the company was not expecting to see outages in Northern Virginia.
Metro opened as scheduled Sunday, and no significant issues were reported – though some buses detoured around snowy roads and faced delays.
Slippery roads and an iced-over bridge were cited as factors in two of the three fatal crashes
The agency canceled 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 Washington at its white and fluffiest. In a small playground within the black-and-white photo that was Sligo Creek Parkway in Takoma Park, Maryland, Apollo Gardiner, 2 1/2, 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, age 9, was doubly enjoying the snow day. She and a friend were sledding down the hill next to Lafayette Elementary School in D.C., and with the knowledge that she helped make it snow in the first place.
She said that a few years ago a dentist told her that if she wore her pajamas inside out and backward, it would snow while she slept. So Saturday night, as flakes began to fall, she turned her blue nightgown and Lafayette pajama pants inside out and backward, and came downstairs to show her parents her plan.
When she woke up, there was snow waiting.
She noted that she tried the trick the night of her dentist's advice. "The next day, it snowed," she said. "And it's snowing a lot right now."
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