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Heavy Snow Blankets East, Closing Airports And Schools

February 23, 1987

Undated (AP) _ Heavy, wet snow blanketed parts of the East today, shutting down the federal government, airports and schools, leaving thousands without power and wreaking havoc for commuters.

Up to 20 inches fell as the storm moved up from the South and over Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Temperatures hovered around the freezing mark.

″Everything’s stuck. Troopers, salt trucks, everybody,″ said a state police dispatcher in central Maryland, where at least a foot of snow had fallen.

Where travel was possible, it often was dangerous. A 46-year-old woman was killed today in a West Virginia traffic accident that authorities blamed on the weather.

The two major airports serving the nation’s capital, Dulles and National, shut down as more than 10 inches of snow covered the runways, but reopened by midmorning. Other airports in the region reported shutdowns or delays.

The weight of the snow pushed trees and power lines across roads. Debris covered train tracks between Baltimore and Washington, causing delays for Amtrak that were expected to last through the day, according to Amtrak spokesman John Jacobsen.

Federal workers in the Baltimore and Washington areas were told not to report to work today. City offices closed in Philadelphia as its western suburbs received up to 5 inches of snow per hour.

Downington, Pa., had 20 inches of snow by this morning, while 18 inches fell in Valley Forge, Pa., 16 inches in Owings Mills, Md., 14 in Wilmington, Del., 13 in Martinsbyrg, W.Va., and Lakehurst, N.J., and 12 in Philadelphia.

Limited states of emergency were declared in New Jersey and Delaware, allowing deployment of the National Guard to help emergency crews get through the snow.

The National Weather Service said the snow was spawned by a storm system off the Virginia coast. It was expected to end by early afternoon.

District of Columbia public works spokeswoman Tara Hamilton said the city received about 200 reports of downed trees blocking roadways. Power was reported cut to 110,000 residents of the district and its Maryland suburbs.

In the nation’s largest city, the storm was the sixth so far this winter to pile up more than 2 inches of snow, said Al O’Leary, spokesman for the New York City Sanitation Department. The heaviest snowfall was 9 inches on Jan. 22.

″The (snow removal) budget was devoured by the Jan. 22 storm,″ he said, adding that Nature apparently was ″still hungry and was devouring even more.″

″The snow came at the worst possible time, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., just before rush hour begins,″ he said. Some 320 salt spreaders were dispatched overnight, but early morning travel was tough as cars plowed through more than 4 inches of slushy snow.

Schools were closed in Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well other parts of Maryland. The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., also canceled classes as more than a foot of snow covered Maryland and Delaware.

On Maryland’s John F. Kennedy Expressway, ″It’s coming down so intense that we’re unable to keep ahead of it,″ said state police Sgt. Francis Friedel.

Sagging tree limbs snapped power lines in parts of Maryland, leaving 21,000 customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. without power early today, said spokeswoman Mary Franz.

A building in Baltimore collapsed during the storm, injuring a woman, but authorities said the collapse apparently was triggered by an explosion.

In New Jersey, turnpike officials lowered the speed limit from 55 to 35 mph for the entire length of the 142-mile roadway and banned all house, boat and utility trailers.

″The snow is very heavy. It’s the kind that actually was falling down in big chunks off the trees,″ said Carolyn Jones, news director for WOBM-FM radio in Toms River, N.J.

Linda Satti, a hostess and waitress at Mastoris Diner-Restaurant in Bordentown, N.J., said most of her staff had called to say they couldn’t get in.

″We’ve lost almost our whole morning crew right now,″ she said.

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