Washington Skiers lapped the Reflecting Pool along the National Mall; others used the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a slope. Hundreds crowded Dupont Circle for a snowball fight organized online, while elsewhere the capital’s famed avenues were all but desolate.
Washington took on a surreal, almost magical feel as it was buried under nearly 2 feet of snow Saturday in one of the worst blizzards in the city’s history. The nearly 18 inches recorded at Reagan National Airport was the fourth-highest storm total for the city. At nearby Dulles International Airport, the record was shattered with 32 inches.
“Right now it’s like the Epcot Center version of Washington,” said Mary Lord, 56, a D.C. resident for some 30 years who had skied around the city.
“Snowmageddon,” President Barack Obama called it. And even the president’s motorcade — which featured SUVs instead of limousines — fell victim as a tree limb snapped and crashed onto a motorcade vehicle carrying press. No one was injured.
From Pennsylvania to New Jersey, south to Virginia, the region was under at least 2 feet of snow. Parts of northern Maryland had 3 feet.
And while the storm created serious inconveniences for many who were without power and faced with digging out, the monuments at Washington’s heart seemed even more stately and serene.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, soldiers’ names were buried 16 rows deep, while higher up snow had settled into the letters so they stood out against the black background. The wreaths of the World War II Memorial looked like giant white-frosted doughnuts. The big attraction at the Lincoln Memorial was not the nation’s 16th president, but rather a snowman with eyes of copper pennies bearing Lincoln’s likeness.
Obama, a snow veteran from his days in Chicago, spoke at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting and thanked those for being “willing to brave a blizzard. Snowmageddon here in D.C.”
But after that, the president went inside, hunkering down in the White House.
The snow fell too quickly for crews to keep up, and officials begged residents to stay home. The hope was everyone could return to work on Monday.
The usually traffic-snarled roads were mostly barren, save for some snow plows, fire trucks, ambulances and a few SUVs. People walked down the middle of New York Avenue near the Verizon Center without fear of being hit. The Wizards game to be played there had been canceled.
Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city, was virtually shut down with a record of nearly 27 inches. The Philadelphia International Auto Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center downtown was a ghost town.