A two-day snowstorm blanketed Loudoun County with two feet of snow by Monday morning, leaving residents stranded for most of the holiday weekend. The week before they were told to make sure they had staples, along with water and electrical tape in case of a terrorist attack. What they got was snow, and lots of it.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said Ashburn resident Julia Lawall on Monday afternoon as she shoveled out her car. “I don’t know if I’m wasting my time here, or if I should hibernate for the week.”
Alvina Starks, who lives a few doors down in the same neighborhood, shoveled the snow off her car on early Sunday afternoon, although she said she did not plan to go anywhere. “I’m staying right in the house doing my taxes, reading books, things I haven’t been able to do.”
The storm that hit the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area left 24.2 inches of snow at the Washington Dulles International Airport and measured in at 24 inches in Leesburg, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) readings taken at the two sites. The storm is the sixth largest in the nation in the past 120 years and for Maryland is the largest or second largest according to the reading taken at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which showed 26.6 inches of snow, said Andy Woodcock, meteorologist at NWS.
THE STORM DEVELOPED last week when a high-pressure system over Canada nosed down into the Mid-Atlantic States, bringing cold air that mixed with the moisture from a low-pressure system coming out of the southeast. The weather service issued a storm watch at 3 p.m. on Thursday, stepping it up to a warning on Friday morning. The storm came in Friday evening and continued until about 10 a.m. Monday. The warning was canceled an hour later.
Snow fell again Monday night, bringing another one to two inches.
The snowstorm brought about a few cancellations early this week, including classes at Northern Virginia Community College and the teacher workday Loudoun County Public Schools scheduled on Monday during the student holiday. Schools and county offices and courts were closed on Tuesday, following official closings on Presidents’ Day. By Tuesday afternoon, school officials announced the closing of public schools would be extended for the rest of the week.
Dulles Town Center closed on Sunday and Monday and reopened on Tuesday. Several businesses stayed closed during the storm, but a few grocery stores and service stations stayed open through the weekend and early this week.
“Yesterday it was busy. Today, it’s off and on in spurts,” said Randy Brown, assistant manager of the Countryside Safeway, on Monday afternoon.
Business over the weekend was “very, very busy” from the storm, Valentine’s Day and the federal-government issued terrorist alert, Brown said. Customers bought staples, non-perishable canned goods and “a whole lot of water. … I couldn’t keep water. We ran out on Wednesday. We hardly could maintain [a stock] on Thursday and Friday.”
An employee at the Giant in Cascades said the store sold extra staples over the weekend and water throughout the week and weekend. “The shelves got empty quite often, but we were caught up by Thursday,” said the employee, who did not want to give her name. “I think it’s a scare, people not being able to go anywhere.”
At Home Depot, the supply of electrical tape and tarps was depleted by Friday afternoon. “We’re all out of it. There might be a roll or two,” an employee said in reference to the electrical tape. “I don’t know what they’re using it for.”
THE LOUDOUN County Sheriff’s Office has been under a heightened sense of alert since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. For the alert, the Sheriff’s Office placed extra patrols in potential high-risk areas, including government facilities and highly populated residential and commercial areas in the county.
“We’ve developed procedures that include extra patrols in areas we deem high risk, and implementation of those procedures go along with helping secure the county in case of a major attack,” said Kraig Troxell, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office kept patrols at regular levels to respond to incidents related to the weekend storm, Troxell said. “Our patrol division commander was in constant contact with sergeants on the road to check the conditions,” he said. “Fortunately, a lot of businesses closed down and kept people off the roadways.”
Sheriff’s deputies responded to 40 accidents and 29 disabled vehicles on Saturday, the majority weather-related. “Those are definitely high numbers,” Troxell said.
The numbers dropped through the rest of the weekend, with nine accidents on Sunday and 74 disabled vehicles; nine accidents again on Monday and 50 disabled vehicles; and five accidents Tuesday morning and 10 disabled vehicles.