As residents in the greater Washington area prepared for the first week of the new year, they enjoyed unprecedented, balmy temperatures on Sunday, reaching the low 60s, perhaps confirming the ongoing impact of global warming.
And so, despite the forecasts of significant snowfall predicted to hit the region on Monday, many people ignored the reports, unable to believe that such a swing in temperatures could occur in just a few hours, if at all.
However, the predictions proved to be correct as the winds swirled throughout the night and into the next day, bringing snow accumulations not seen since 2016. Southern Maryland caught the brunt of the snowfall with some parts of the state recording nearly 16 inches of snow. But the District, portions of Virginia and the eastern suburbs of Maryland would also be hit by Mother Nature’s fury with totals ranging between 4.5 inches and over a foot of snow.
On Monday, snow totals exceeded recorded measures at Washington-Reagan National Airport with 6.9 inches of snow, breaking the previous record of 2.4 inches set in 1988.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency for the District, urging residents to stay off the streets and remain home while delaying the opening of D.C. Public Schools for at least one or two days. Meanwhile, District residents found it nearly impossible to travel as Metro buses often became stuck in snowdrifts while sorely-needed snowplows could not be found.
DPW officials pointed to the large number of employees stuck at home due to COVID-19 as the reason for the deficit in available manpower but promised to bring in contractors to help with the cleanup.
Hundreds of thousands of residents reported power outages from those in D.C. and Maryland who rely on Pepco for their service recording 14,977 citizens without power while another 16,016 residents in Northern Virginia and over 45,000 residents in Southern Maryland reported similar challenges.
However, the worst news came as thousands of drivers on I-95 found themselves unable to move after several 18-wheelers lost control on the highway, jackknifing and causing a pileup that shut down all travel heading southbound from Monday morning beginning around 10:30 a.m. and lasting late into the night on Tuesday, Jan. 4.
Along the Virginia/Maryland border, drivers on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge also found themselves stuck in their cars and unable to move with many without food or water and braving the frigid temperatures as their automobiles ran out of gasoline.
It’s been nearly three years since the DMV saw a significant snowfall and 2016 since numbers reached the totals reported in this, the first snowfall for 2022.
On Jan. 3, as the sun set, temperatures quickly fell and road conditions worsened as the snow turned to ice. Residents, whether driving, walking or taking public transportation, found the roads treacherous and almost impossible to navigate.
On a lighter note, during the day on Monday, dozens of local residents headed to the National Mall where they took part in light-hearted snow fights.
With some commuters reporting being stranded on I-95 for over 24 hours, many residents soon began to ask how such conditions could occur while contemplating who should be held responsible for the lack of preparation and planning.
To her credit, Bowser continued to provide information to District residents about delays in COVID-19 testing required before teachers and students could return to classes later in the week as well as directing citizens to stay home and stay safe.
But for the outgoing Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, who appeared on Fox News early Tuesday morning, his inability to explain how such a foul-up could occur on I-95 and why it took so long to alleviate the catastrophe, it would be a day he would rather forget, emerging as the most talked about and controversial topic on social media.
So, while home and business owners continued to clear their driveways and parking lots, weather forecasters pointed to the possibility of more snowfall, an estimated three to six inches, headed toward the region on Thursday night and into Friday morning.