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Winter Wonderland

First major snowfall in two years closes schools, creates parking havoc.

Thursday’s snowstorm left Arlington schools closed, but it still meant waking up early for some students.

Adults may have taken advantage of a day off work to get a few extra hours of sleep, but Dagmawi Gedlu wasn’t staying in bed. “I woke up at 5 in the morning, looked at the news to see if school was canceled,” said Gedlu, a seventh-grader at Williamsburg Middle School.

School was indeed canceled and remained closed through Friday, Dec. 6, following a winter storm that buried much of the East Coast under snow and ice, causing blackouts, traffic congestion and dozens of deaths in some areas.

Arlington escaped the major problems, said Detective John Ritter, a spokesperson for the Police Department. Still, traffic accidents for the day went up, from 22 on Wednesday to 38 on Thursday. “I would assume that’s related to the weather,” Ritter said, as drivers ventured out onto roads thick with snow and, in some cases, ice.

The county enacted a snow emergency between 10 a.m. and midnight Thursday, meaning residents and commuters were banned from parking on designated streets. Many people avoided the parking problem, as well as the danger of driving on snow-covered streets, by taking Metro.

“I just moved here from California, so I don’t know how to drive in the snow,” said Brooke Ramsey, who took the Metro to work from Pentagon City. “This is all very unfamiliar,” she said.

GENE AND CHRIS SCHULMAN echoed her sentiments. They moved to Arlington from Hawaii a month ago. For Gene Schulman, Metro provided a dubious solution to the hazards of driving.

The Yellow Line train he rode home from work stalled between L’Enfant Plaza and the Pentagon, leaving him and other commuters stuck in a tunnel until another train could arrive to push them to the next station.

Ed Stuart had a more pleasant experience. The Montclair resident usually uses ride-sharing to commute to his Crystal City office, but he took advantage of free Metrobus transfers being offered during the snow emergency.

“It took two hours instead of one, but it was safe and it was free,” he said.

Laura Potter and Ian Andrews, both residents of the Courthouse area and employees at America Online’s Dulles office, avoided snowy roads by working at home, at least for a few hours. “It’s all online,” said Potter, “So they let us work from home on days like this.” But working at home meant she and co-workers could take the afternoon off to enjoy the snow.

As he lined up to kick a football across the snow-covered field at Key Middle School, Andrews wasn’t planning on canceling his evening due to snow. “We’re going to the Georgetown game tonight at the MCI Center, too,” he said.

County offices remained open but enacted a liberal leave policy for Thursday. There was no official count of how many county employees took advantage of the leave policy, according to Matt Martin, a spokesperson for the county, but most offices were functioning as usual, he said.

Evening activities were canceled, as 6 p.m. marked the end of county business. The Parks and Recreation Department had an off day, canceling all sports activities, leagues and instructional programs at county and school facilities for Thursday.

Transit changes included elimination of some stops on Route 52 of the ART bus system and extended service of Route 90, the Crystal City Rush Hour line.

SNOW ENDED WORK completely for many in the area. “I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Van Spurgeon, a Crystal City resident and an airline employee, who had a day off on Thursday. He used the time to put up holiday decorations in preparation for a weekend party. “It made the decorating a little more fun, seeing the snow falling,” he said.

Joanne Rosso, also of Crystal City, said the snow was a mixed blessing. “It’s nice,” she said, “We haven’t seen it in so many years.” But despite the county’s best efforts to keep streets clear for drivers, snow piled up on corners and on sidewalks, making walking treacherous. “It’s hard to find a place to move,” she said.

A walk in the snow was a delight for some young Arlingtonians. Miriam Kaufman, a German au pair, who has lived in Arlington four months, took her 3-year-old charge for a ride on a sled in Crystal City.