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Snow Stalls Schools, Traffic

First substantial snow of the season proves challenging to plow.

Although the snow had been steadily falling since after midnight, CUE bus driver Carl Rich said that as of 2 p.m., driving had been fairly easy. While his busload was lower than usual because of classes closing at George Mason University, he said the roads were getting better.

"And I'm on time too," said Rich, who had been on his route for four hours.

Area commuters and students awoke last Thursday to the area's first snowfall, affecting traffic and work. Fairfax County public schools closed Thursday and Friday, and companies encouraged employees to stay home and avoid the roads.

Fairfax residents received 5 3/4 inches of snow from the storm, which also blanketed the mid-Atlantic and Northeast states as it trailed upward.

The early snowfall for the season and its strength caught Fairfax City's public works department by surprise, as employees were still finishing leaf collection from the fall. Because the leaves fell late, they hadn't finished collecting leaves, said John Veneziano, director of public works for the city. That, coupled with dropping temperatures and four-wheel vehicles compacting the snow, made it harder for crews to plow the snow, because the blades would skid over the ice.

"It was a difficult snow," Veneziano said. "If you get too much traffic and the temperatures drop, you get a block of ice."

Employees of the public works department began salting and sanding major highways, bus routes and collector streets around 1 a.m. Once more snow accumulated around 4 a.m., they started plowing. When even more snow accumulated, they sanded and salted and plowed again.

"It depends on how much snow is falling and how quickly it falls," Veneziano said.

Meanwhile, the City of Fairfax's police department reported a quiet day, due to the early cancellation of schools and enough businesses offering liberal leave to employees.

"It was a pretty uneventful snowstorm for us, as they go," said Deputy Chief Bill Klugh. "The roads weren't particularly crowded. The trucks were able to get to their roads and do their treating."

While snowplows stood waiting for snow accumulation, area residents prepared for the storm by going to local grocery stores. At Trader Joe’s in Fairfax, manager Dave Williams said business was good on Wednesday and Friday, and disappointing on Thursday. People came and bought milk, eggs, toilet paper and canned goods.

"It seems to be the things that you think about that if you can't get out of the house. What do you need?" Williams said.

Despite the heavier customer volume on Wednesday, the store was well-stocked and had enough goods for everyone, according to Williams.

"We were prepared for it," Williams said. When asked about the mood of customers, he replied, "It didn't seem like a frenzy."

Although parents may have braced for the storm by buying supplies of food, children prepared for the storm by wearing their pajamas inside out, in anticipation for a snow day.

When children got their wish the next day, they headed out to Van Dyck Park for some sledding. The aim, according to Katie Witt, 9, and 8-year-olds Paulina Tammaro, Samantha Bryan and Nicole Simmons, was to slide down the hill really fast and maybe hit some people at the same time.

"Ahhhh!" they said as they sped down.