February 8th, 2010
The biggest winter storm in nearly 90 years walloped the Mid-Atlantic states on Saturday, dumping up to 33 inches of snow that shut down the nation’s capital, left thousands of people without power and caused flight cancellations nationwide.
In Washington, D.C., up to 33 inches had fallen in some areas by Saturday evening. President Barack Obama, a snow veteran from Chicago, joked that he encountered “snowmageddon” as he ventured out for a meeting. An ice-coated tree limb later fell on a media vehicle in his motorcade.
Other parts of Maryland got 3 feet, and northern Virginia, Delaware, New York and southern New Jersey recorded more than 2 feet.
The storm began moving out of the area by 8 p.m. Saturday, but forecasters warned that howling winds, drifts and ice would continue to make travel treacherous.
D.C. officials begged residents to stay home so that roads might be cleared in time for work Monday. They predicted it could take days to fully dig out the area.
Tihana and Jarrett Blanc gave up digging and took their dog, Hector, for a walk through northwest Washington.
“Our car is stuck. We’re not even trying,” said Tihana Blanc, 36.
The storm toppled trees and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers across the region.
Though the focal point was Washington, people across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia also were dealing with snow measured in feet instead of inches. Philadelphia was virtually shut down, and West Virginia called up 400 National Guard troops to help with snow removal.
Hundreds of car wrecks were reported, and two people died — a father and son helping another motorist in Virginia. Most people couldn’t drive anywhere because their cars and roads were buried.
In Ellicott City, Md., Christine Benkoski said she was trying to dig out from at least 2 feet. She said she uncovered layers of snow, ice and snow again.
“I’ve been out here for an hour, and my only goal is to get to the street.”
Airlines canceled flights, and Delta Air Lines, US Airways and JetBlue Airways, among others, were offering customers a chance to rebook at no cost. Amtrak and commuter trains ground to a halt.
Saturday’s storm was the largest since the 1922 Knickerbocker storm dropped up to 33 inches around Washington. The storm got its name from Washington’s Knickerbocker Theater, whose roof collapsed on Jan. 28, 1922, from the weight of the snow, killing 98 moviegoers and injuring 133, according to the Washington Weather book Web site.
The biggest snowfall for the area is believed to have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 3 feet fell. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wrote about it in their diaries.