WASHINGTON — Cross-country skiers lapped the Reflecting Pool along the National Mall. Hundreds crowded Dupont Circle for a snowball fight organized with the help of the Internet.
The famous Constitution and Independence avenues were desolate and a couple skiers used steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a slope.
The scenes were not what tourists and locals were used to in the nation’s capital, which took on a surreal, almost magical Disney World-like feel as it was buried under nearly 2 feet of snow.
“Right now it’s like the Epcot Center version of Washington,” said Mary Lord, 56, a D.C. resident for some 30 years who had skied around the city.
“Snowmageddon,” President Barack Obama called it. Even the president’s motorcade — which featured SUVs instead of limousines — fell victim to one of the worst blizzards to ever hit Washington. A tree limb snapped and crashed onto a motorcade vehicle carrying press.
From Pennsylvania to New Jersey, south to the Virginia, the region was under at least 2 feet of snow. Parts of northern Maryland had 3 feet.
National monuments seemed even more stately and serene.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, soldiers’ names were buried 16 rows deep and snow had settled randomly into letters so they stood out against the black background. The wreaths of the World War II Memorial looked like giant white-frosted doughnuts. The big attraction at the Lincoln Memorial — wasn’t the nation’s 16th president but rather a snowman — its eyes copper pennies with Lincoln’s likeness.
The snow fell too quickly for crews to keep up, and officials begged residents to stay home. The hope was everyone could return to work Monday.
The usually traffic-snarled roads were mostly barren, save for some snow plows, fire trucks, ambulances and a few SUVs.
The Capital Beltway, always filled with cars, was empty at times. Metro, the area’s rail system, shut down by 11 p.m., partly because of so-few riders.
“Our car is stuck. We’re not even trying,” said Tihana Blanc who was walking her dog in northwest Washington.
Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city, was virtually shut down with a record of nearly 27 inches. The Philadelphia International Auto Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center downtown was a ghost town.
“Last year when I came, there was a line getting in,” said Walt Gursky, 28. “Much more relaxing in here — you can actually see what you want.”
The snow comes less than two months after a Dec. 19 storm dumped more than 16 inches on Washington.
Carolyn Matuska loved the quiet during her morning run along Washington’s National Mall.
“Oh, it’s spectacular out,” she said. “It’s so beautiful. The temperature’s perfect, it’s quiet, there’s nobody out, it’s a beautiful day.”