WASHINGTON (AP) — A winter storm packing heavy snow blew into the nation’s capital Monday, closing government offices and schools and grounding the president’s helicopter as 6 to 11 inches (15 to 28 centimeters) of snow ringed the area around Washington.
Snow spotters for the National Weather Service reported accumulations of 11.5 inches (29.2 centimeters) in the D.C. suburb of Capitol Heights, Maryland, and 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) in Rose Hill, Virginia, by the time the storm wound down Monday afternoon. At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) of snow was reported. Farther south, in Chancellorsville, Virginia, 12.1 inches (30.7 centimeters) was reported.
“It was balmy and foggy yesterday and then 6 inches of snow this morning, not even 12 hours later. That’s not something I’ve seen before,” said Shawn Devroude, 52, a federal worker who braved the blizzard-like conditions in the nation’s capital to play with his 9-year-old border collie, MoJo, at the Naval Memorial.
The heavy snowfall, coupled with closings caused by the surge in coronavirus cases, forced much of Washington to shut down. Four of the Smithsonian museums had already closed in late December due to a COVID-19 outbreak, and the National Zoo announced Monday that it would close for the day because of the snow.
Strong wind gusts and snow falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) per hour made travel treacherous. In Virginia, state police responded to more than 600 traffic accidents, including a crash involving six tractor-trailers. State police said no injuries were reported in the crash.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a snow emergency and advised residents to stay home.
“Stay off the roads and allow our crews to work,” she said.
President Joe Biden made a slow return to Washington after spending about a week in Delaware. The snow grounded Biden’s helicopter, so he motorcaded to the White House from Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, a slow slog that took nearly an hour. The White House Press briefing was canceled, although Biden’s other public events were still on.
More than half the flights were delayed or canceled Monday at Washington’s three major airports, according to FlightAware.com’s misery map. A quarter of the flights at New York’s three major airports were delayed or canceled as well. In New Jersey, snow blanketed the southern half of the state, dumping about a foot (0.3 meters) near the resort town of Atlantic City.
Andrea Klein, 23, a graduate student at Georgetown University, welcomed the snow after spending the past two weeks in quarantine when one of her roommates tested positive for COVID-19.
“Things have been feeling a bit stressful in the world lately so to walk around in the snow with friends is a nice return to normalcy,” she said, while strolling around the National Mall taking pictures.
Many COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites were closed in D.C., Virginia and in Maryland due to the weather. Multiple school districts in the region also said they would be closed, delayed or have virtual learning Monday.
Karla Rivas, who is originally from Miami but now lives in Baltimore, experienced her first-ever winter storm.
“I love it,” she said. “I feel like it’s great to have the seasons.”
Other parts of the country were also dealing with a snowy start to the new year.
Western Washington state and Oregon were seeing a mix of rain and snow while heavy snow, gusty winds, drifts and crashes shut down mountain passes and some highways.
Even Florida woke up to a dusting of snow, with temperatures plunging in parts of the Panhandle after typical beach weather Sunday.
A 7-year-old girl died Monday morning when a tree fell on a cabin in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains, Blount County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Marian O’Briant said. She said numerous trees and power lines were down all over Blount County after heavy, wet snow fell overnight. No one else was injured. Officials did not release additional information.
A 55-year-old man Delaware man died after his car ran off the road and hit a tree Monday morning as freezing rain fell in the area, according to the state police. Master Cpl. Heather Pepper said investigators haven’t determined if weather was a factor in the crash.
As much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow accumulated in north Alabama, where authorities reported multiple roads were blocked because of icy spots and wrecks.
With temperatures in the teens forecast for overnight, Virginia State Police warned that any snow that melted during the day is expected to freeze, causing icy and dangerous road conditions. Some school districts in Virginia said schools would be closed again Tuesday.
As of Tuesday morning, the Virginia Department of Transportation confirmed both directions of I-95 are shut down between Ruther Glen, Virginia, in Caroline County and exit 152 in Dumfries, Prince William County. A crash involving six tractor trailers on Monday around noon lead to the shutdown, leaving drivers stranded for hours. No injuries were reported.
Associated Press contributors include Julio Cortez in Baltimore; Colleen Long in Washington; Randall Chase in Dover, Delaware; Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Virginia; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Julie Walker in New York; and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama.