Heavy snow stretches across Ohio Valley to mid-Atlantic states

Monday, February 17, 2003

The East's worst storm of the season dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on parts of the Ohio Valley and into the mid-Atlantic states Sunday, shutting down airports, snarling highways and canceling church services and major sporting events.

At least six deaths had been blamed on the weather since snow first burst across the Plains on Friday and Saturday. Governors in Kentucky, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware declared a state of emergency, closing roads and in some cases mobilizing the National Guard to help with the mess.

Blizzard warnings were issued Sunday night in a handful of eastern states.

"This is looking like the largest storm this year, and it may be one of the top five in our recorded history," said Lora Rakowski of Maryland's Highway Administration. "You name a place, they've got snow -- and a lot of it."

The snow was part of a huge system that also produced thunderstorms in the South, including an early morning tornado that damaged a house in northern Florida.

In Tennessee, where more than 7 inches of rain fell earlier, a mudslide early Sunday destroyed an apartment building outside Knoxville, chasing out several dozen tenants. One man was hospitalized in serious condition with broken bones but was improving, the Knox County sheriff's office said.

At least 50,000 customers were without power in West Virginia, where 20 inches of snow fell in the north, floods blocked roads in the south and ice caused problems elsewhere. Flights at Charleston's Yeager Airport were canceled. Williamson closed its flood wall as the Tug Fork River rose toward a crest of up to 3 feet above flood stage. Winds up to 30 mph were expected to cause blowing and drifting snow in the mountains, where as much as 3 feet of snow was predicted.

Missouri to New Jersey

Snow fell Sunday from Missouri to New Jersey, and flakes piled up at a rate of up to 4 inches an hour in parts of Maryland, where Gov. Robert Ehrlich banned most civilian traffic from state highways.

Forecasts ranged from a foot of snow by late today in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to 20 inches in New Jersey and 2 feet in Maryland and northern Virginia.

Greg Hannigan of Hagerstown, Md., trekked through the snow to church Sunday and found he was the only one there. "When Catholics don't show up for church, you know it's a bad storm," he said.

College basketball games were postponed because of by the storm, including a showdown between defending national champion Maryland and Wake Forest, and horse races were canceled.

The Washington area's Baltimore-Washington International and Reagan National airports both closed until further notice; BWI had a record 13 inches of snow by evening with more to come, National Weather Service Meteorologist Steve Zubrick said.

"If these accumulations actually occur, this storm would rank in the top five of all storms in snowfall recorded in the last century," Zubrick said.

Dulles International Airport had just one runway open during the afternoon. About three-quarters of flights were canceled at Philadelphia International Airport, where about 15 inches of snow fell. Amtrak suspended service between Washington and Richmond, Va., said spokesman Dan Stessel.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: