Washington — Worst winter ever? The second blizzard in less than a week buried the most populous stretch of the East Coast under nearly a foot of snow Wednesday, breaking records for the snowiest winter and demoralizing millions of people still trying to dig out from the previous storm.
Conditions in the nation’s capital were so bad that even plows were advised to get off the roads, and forecasters were eyeing a third storm that could be brewing for next week.
For many families, the first storm was a fun weekend diversion. People even went skiing past Washington’s monuments. But Wednesday’s blizzard quickly became a serious safety concern. The Pennsylvania governor shut down some highways and warned that people who drove were risking their lives.
“I’ve seen enough,” said Bill Daly, 57, as gusts of wind and snow lashed his face in Arlington, Va., where streets were nearly empty just a few days after people had been playing in the snow.
“It’s scary and beautiful at the same time. I wanted to shovel but thought if I had a heart attack it could be a while before anybody found me in this kind of weather.”
Old-timers talk about a storm that blew through Washington in 1922, collapsing the roof on the Knickerbocker theater and killing more than 90 people. Their great-great-grandchildren will be able to describe the back-to-back blizzards of 2010, which were not nearly as deadly but set records for the snowiest winters ever in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Up to 16 inches fell in parts of western Maryland. Reagan National Airport outside Washington had nearly 10 inches by 2 p.m., and Baltimore got nearly a foot. That was on top of totals up to 3 feet in some places from the weekend storm.
“I have never in my lifetime seen or heard anything quite like this,” said D.C. Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, who was born and raised in the District.
The previous records for snowiest winters were 62.5 inches in Baltimore in 1995-96; 54.4 inches in Washington in 1898-99; and 65.5 inches in Philadelphia in 1995-96.
On Wednesday, Baltimore had 72.3 inches so far this winter, the Washington area had 54.9 inches and Philadelphia had 70.3 inches.
Heavy snow also fell in New York and New Jersey. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights, and New York City’s 1.1 million schoolchildren enjoyed only their third snow day in six years. The Washington area’s two airports had no flights coming or going Wednesday.
The streets of downtown Philadelphia were nearly vacant as people heeded the mayor’s advice to stay home.
The news wasn’t all bad. Washington has not had a homicide in a week. Ski areas were doing brisk business, when people could get to them. And private contractors were making money plowing driveways and parking lots.
But many people were just ready for the ordeal to end.
In a yard in Westmont, N.J., someone used bright orange paint to scrawl nature a message on a white backdrop: “Dear Mr Frost,” it read. “We’re good w/ snow.”