WASHINGTON – The whiteout at the White House. Snowmageddon. Snowpocalypse.
No matter what it was called, the blizzard that buried the nation's capital was indeed epic.
The heavy, wet snow snapped tree limbs onto power lines and several roofs collapsed under the weight. Still, most tried to make the best of the situation.
"I think it's fun," said 10-year-old Jayla Burgess in Arlington, Va. "The best part is throwing snowballs at my Dad."
She wasn't the only one hurling the white stuff. Hundreds crowded Dupont Circle in D.C. for a snowball fight organized online. Skiers lapped the Reflecting Pool along the National Mall and others used the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a slope.
Washington took on a surreal, almost magical feel even though it was one of the worst blizzards in the city's history. The nearly 18 inches recorded at Reagan National Airport was the fourth-highest storm total for the city. At nearby Dulles International Airport, the record was shattered with 32 inches.
"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.
President Barack Obama called it "Snowmageddon." Even his motorcade — which featured SUVs instead of limousines — fell victim to the storm as a tree limb crashed onto a vehicle carrying press. No one was injured.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, soldiers' names were buried 16 rows deep, while higher up snow had settled into the 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 was not the nation's 16th president, but rather a snowman with eyes of copper pennies bearing Lincoln's likeness.
A group of four sophomores from George Washington University took pictures nearby.
"I'm from California. This is my first snow ever," said Megan McDonough, 19. "My parents called and asked if I had enough food."
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 on 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.
Ann Pauley, 50, shoveled her car out of heaps of snow on a side street in Arlington even as more flakes piled on.
"I dug it out at midnight (Friday) when there was a foot of snow on it and I did it again this afternoon when there was another foot of snow," Pauley said. "My in-laws are from New England and they advised me that smaller amounts of snow are easier to manage. I don't need to go anywhere, I just want to stay ahead of it if I can."
Philadelphia, the nation's sixth-largest city, was virtually shut down with a record of nearly 27 inches.
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."
The ugly side of the snow led to thousands of wrecks. Still, only two people had died — a father-and-son team who were killed trying to help someone stuck on a highway in Virginia.
Shawn Punga and his wife, Kristine, of Silver Spring, Md., went to a hotel because they lost power and were concerned for their 2-year-old daughter, Ryder, who was bundled up in thick pink pajamas and slippers.
"I have just been watching the thermostat," he said. They left the house when it hit 60 degrees.
Trouble for some was business for others.
Angel Martinez and a small crew of contractors shoveled morning and night and plowed streets and walkways of a Silver Spring subdivision.
"Usually there is not a lot of work this time of year, so when I get the call I'm happy for the opportunity to work," said Martinez, 24, of Gaithersburg. "But today there was too much."
The snow comes less than two months after a Dec. 19 storm dumped more than 16 inches on Washington. According to the National Weather Service, Washington has gotten more than a foot of snow only 13 times since 1870.
The heaviest on record was 28 inches in January 1922. The biggest snowfall for the Washington-Baltimore area is believed to have been in 1772, before official records were kept, when as much as 3 feet fell, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson penned in their diaries.
Associated Press writers Carol Druga, Sarah Brumfield, Christine Simmons and Philip Elliott in Washington, Kathleen Miller in Arlington, Va., and Alex Dominguez in Baltimore contributed to this report.