WASHINGTON (AP) - A blizzard battered the Mid-Atlantic region
Saturday, with emergency crews struggling to keep pace with the
heavy, wet snow that has piled up on roadways, toppled trees and
left thousands without electricity.
Officials urged people to huddle at home and out of the way of
emergency crews. Forecasters said the storm could be the biggest
for the nation's capital in modern history.
A record 2 feet or more was predicted for Washington. As of
early Saturday, 10 inches of snow was reported at the White House,
while parts of Maryland and West Virginia were buried under more
than 20 inches. Forecasters expected snowfall rates to increase, up
to 2 inches per hour through Saturday morning.
Blizzard warnings were issued for the District of Columbia,
Baltimore, parts of New Jersey and Delaware, and some areas west of
the Chesapeake Bay.
"Things are fairly manageable, but trees are starting to come
down," said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer, whose
agency responded to some of the falling trees. No injuries were
Airlines canceled flights, churches called off weekend services
and people wondered if they would be stuck at home for several days
in a region ill-equipped to deal with so much snow.
"D.C. traditionally panics when it comes to snow. This time, it
may be more justifiable than most times," said Becky Shipp, who
was power-walking in Arlington, Va., Friday. "I am trying to get a
walk in before I am stuck with just the exercise machine in my
The region's second snowstorm in less than two months brought
heavy, wet snow and strong winds that forecasters warned could gust
near 60 mph in some areas along the coast.
Hundreds of thousands of customers across the region had lost
electricity and more outages were expected to be reported because
of all the downed power lines. A hospital fire in D.C. sent about
three dozen patients scurrying from their rooms to safety in a
basement. The blaze started when a snow plow truck caught fire near
Authorities blamed the storm for hundreds of accidents,
including a deadly tractor-trailer wreck that killed a father and
son who had stopped to help someone in Virginia. Some area
hospitals asked people with four-wheel-drive vehicles to volunteer
to pick up doctors and nurses to take them to work.
The country band Rascal Flatts postponed a concert Saturday in
Ohio, but the Atlanta Thrashers-Washington Capitals NHL game went
on as planned.
In Dover, Del., Shanita Foster lugged three gallons of water out
of a Dollar General store.
"That's all we need right now. We've got everything else,"
said Foster, adding that she was ready with candles in case the
power went out.
Shoppers jammed aisles and emptied stores of milk, bread,
shovels, driveway salt and other supplies. Many scrambling for food
and supplies were too late.
"Our shelves are bare," said Food Lion front-end manager
Darlene Baboo in Dover. "This is just unreal."
Metro, the transit system the Washington area is heavily
dependent upon, closed all but the underground rail service and
suspended bus service.
Maryland's public transportation also shut down Saturday,
including Baltimore's Metro. Maryland Transit Administration
spokeswoman Jawauna Greene said the underground portion of the
Metro could reopen later Saturday but it depended on the weather
"We have trees on the overhead wires, trees on train tracks. We
can't get anything out," she said.
Amtrak also canceled several of its Northeast Corridor trains
Saturday, and New Jersey's transit authority expected to suspend
bus service. As much as a foot of snow was reported in parts of
Across the region, transportation officials deployed thousands
of trucks and crews and had hundreds of thousands of tons of salt
at the ready. Several states exhausted or expected to exhaust their
snow removal budgets.
Maryland budgeted about $60 million, and had already spent about
$50 million, Gov. Martin O'Malley said. Virginia Gov. Bob
McDonnell, who has been in office less than a month, declared his
second snow emergency, authorizing state agencies to assist local
governments. As of early Saturday, some parts of Virginia had
already seen more than 18 inches of snow.
The snow comes less than two months after a Dec. 19 storm dumped
more than 16 inches on Washington. Snowfalls of this magnitude -
let alone two in one season - are rare in the area. According to
the National Weather Service, Washington has gotten more than a
foot of snow only 13 times since 1870.
The heaviest on record was 28 inches in January 1922. The
biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to
have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much
as 3 feet fell, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson penned
in their diaries.
In Washington, tourists made the best of it Friday, spending
their days in museums or venturing out to see the monuments before
the snow got too heavy.
A group of 13 high school students from Cincinnati was stranded
in D.C. when a student government conference they planned to attend
was canceled - after they had already arrived. So they went
At the Smithsonian's natural history museum, Caitlin Lavon, 18,
and Hannah Koch, 17, took pictures of each other with the jaws of a
great white shark in the Ocean Hall.
"Our parents are all freaking out, sending texts to be
careful," Koch said. "Being from Ohio, I don't think I've ever
seen that much snow at once."
Associated Press writers Brett Zongker and Sarah Karush in
Washington, Kathleen Miller in Falls Church, Va., David Dishneau in
Chantilly, Va., Ben Nuckols in Hanover, Md., Randall Chase in
Dover, Del., and Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Va., contributed to
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)