Blizzard hits Mid-Atlantic

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

WASHINGTON -- Mid-Atlantic residents were buried Saturday by a blizzard the president jokingly called ''Snowmageddon,'' and those brave enough tried to clear a path through the wet, heavy mounds of thigh-high snow.

The snow was falling too quickly in the nation's capital for crews to keep up, and was easily one of the worst snowstorms for D.C. in modern history. Officials begged residents to stay home and out of the way so that roads might be cleared in time for work Monday. The usually traffic-snarled roads were mostly barren, and Washington's familiar sites and monuments were covered with nearly 2 feet of snow.

Tihana and Jarrett Blanc had given up on digging, instead taking their dog, Hector, for a walk through northwest Washington during what forecasters said could be the biggest storm for the nation's capital in modern history.

''Our car is stuck. We're not even trying,'' said Tihana, 36.

The storm toppled trees and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers in Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The situation was the same in West Virginia, where some 400 National Guard troops were helping with snow removal.

Though the focal point remained the nation's capital, people from Pittsburgh, across Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, New Jersey and West Virginia were dealing with snow measured in feet instead of inches. Philadelphia, the nation's sixth-largest city, was virtually shut down.

Walt Gursky, 28, braved the roads to go to the Philadelphia International Auto Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center downtown.

''Last year when I came, there was a line getting in,'' Gursky said in the normally mobbed facility. ''Much more relaxing in here -- you can actually see what you want.''

Hundreds of car wrecks were reported, though only two people had died -- a father and son who died while helping another motorist in Virginia. By Saturday, 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. As she tried to clear her driveway, she said she uncovered how the storm had transitioned from snow, to ice, then back to snow.

''I feel like an archaeologist,'' Benkoski said.

''I've been out here for an hour, and my only goal is to get to the street.''

President Barack Obama, a snow veteran from his days in Chicago walked out of the White House midmorning to find the South Lawn, his backyard, looking like untouched wilderness.