Huge snowstorm pummels D.C. area for a second day

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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WASHINGTON - A mammoth winter tempest dubbed "Snowmageddon" by President Barack Obama hammered the U.S. capital for a second day on Saturday, zeroing in on an 88-year-old record as it buried the region under a thigh-high blanket of snow.
Sixty centimetres had fallen by mid-Saturday and another 10 to 15 were predicted by day's end. Tens of thousands of people were without power as heavy snow felled power lines. Airports and public transit shut down. A private jet hangar at Dulles Airport in Virginia collapsed under the weight of the white stuff.
Emergency crews were having trouble traversing roads clogged with drifts that were waist-high in some places, despite their vehicles being equipped with chains and four-wheel drive. The snow was falling too fast for plows to keep up.
The city's famously leafy suburbs in Maryland and Virginia were riddled with trees toppled by the wet, heavy snow, some of them crushing homes, cars and downing power lines. A church in northeast D.C. fell victim to a tag-team: a felled tree combined with heavy snow to cause the collapse of the building's roof.
The governors of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware declared states of emergency as the storm challenged the 1922 record-holder. That blizzard dumped a whopping 71 centimetres of snow on the area.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also warned of the prospect of flooding once the temperature warms. The mercury is supposed to climb above freezing in the days to come.
Officials urged people to stay indoors in order to allow them to clear roads more efficiently, and hopefully in time for people to get to work and school on Monday. Hundreds of mostly 20-somethings ignored that warning in the D.C. neighbourhood of Dupont Circle, however, gleefully participating in a massive snowball fight under the watchful eye of police.
"I got a black eye, so I came home," said one participant. "But so much fun!"
Others donned cross-country skis and glided along the National Mall, their backdrop the city's famous monuments, buried under mounds of snow.
Obama himself ventured out of the White House in a black SUV instead of the presidential limousine, appearing before the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting. He thanked participants for being "willing to brave a blizzard, Snowmageddon."
"It's like an April day in Chicago," party chairman Tim Kaine said about Obama's adopted hometown.
Hundreds of car wrecks were reported throughout the region, although by mid-Saturday, few people were driving anywhere because their cars were buried under snow and roads were impassable.
Maryland State troopers reported numerous disabled vehicles as they worked with the National Guard to respond to calls for service. The abandoned cars were causing problems for snow removal crews and hindering the ability of police and paramedics to respond to emergencies.
"These calls are usually involving vehicles and drivers who are not equipped to travel in this type of extreme weather and are becoming stuck in the snow," they said in a release. "Troopers are reporting that most drivers of the disabled vehicles have no important or emergency purpose for being on the highway."
Neighbourhoods struggled to dig out with the snow still falling, some banding together to shovel for elderly neighbours. But roads were virtually invisible in most residential neighbourhoods as plows focused on main thoroughfares.
"It's beautiful, but it's just too much," said Edna Johnson, 80, of Silver Spring, Md. "I have never seen so much snow. There was a bad storm in 1996, but it wasn't nearly as bad as this."
The storm came less than two months after a Dec. 19 system dumped more than 41 centimetres on Washington, a rarity in a region that barely gets more than a few dustings of snow every winter.
The U.S. National Weather Service says Washington has been subjected to more than 30 centimetres of snow only 13 times since 1870.


Organizations: Dulles Airport, Democratic National Committee, National Guard U.S. National Weather Service

Geographic location: WASHINGTON, Virginia, Maryland U.S. Chicago Silver Spring

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