They'd hoped to trade political potshots for wet snowballs.
Instead, the storm billed as "Snowquester" is turning out to be nothing more than a big wet blanket for members of the Washington D.C. Snowball Fight Association. The group had planned a big showdown in DuPont Circle, where a few years ago 3,000 people turned out for a humdinger of a fight.
But where 5 to 10 inches of wet snow was supposed to fall on DuPont Circle, not even the slush was accumulating Wednesday afternoon, said organizer Michael Lipin.
"Quite a letdown," he said.
While the storm was dumping plenty of snow in other places, Washington was getting just fractions of an inch, said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.
In fact, the National Weather Service dropped its winter storm warning for the Washington area Wednesday afternoon.
"It's just not panning out to be the storm we'd thought it would be," Morris said.
In nearby Virginia, however, things were quite different.
Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency, state police extended shifts and National Guard called up 100 troops for snow duty as inches of wet, heavy snow fell across parts of the state -- knocking out power to nearly 180,000 people.
Transportation officials reported particularly nasty conditions on many secondary and some primary routes in 15 central and northern counties, with deep snow or ice covering the pavement. State and many county offices closed early.
About 4,200 utility workers were in the field trying to deal with outages, Rodney Blevins of Dominion Power said during a news conference.
Airlines have canceled more than 1,600 flights, leaving passengers like Alex Thompson, who had hoped to take a flight to San Francisco, with plenty of time on their hands.
Thompson had traveled all the way from Kenya only to find that his next flight was one of hundreds called off until Thursday due to the storm.
With no hotel reservations and nowhere else to go, he said he'd find a place to sack out at Dulles International Airport and "waste my time until I can get on my flight."
The dire forecast issued Tuesday prompted the federal government to close offices in the nation's capital, but emergency workers and telecommuters were expected to be on duty, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
The White House canceled a planned celebration for the Alabama Crimson Tide, college football champions, and Congress called off several hearings.
More than 954,000 students who attend major school districts in Washington, Virginia, Maryland and Ohio got the day off.
And Amtrak shut down some trains in Washington, Virginia, West Virginia and New York.
But tourism goes on
Not all of Washington was shut down. While the National Zoo closed, the Smithsonian said its museums would be open for visitors.
Washington's Metrorail system also was running, although some bus service had been disrupted, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Along the coast, the problem wasn't snow, but high winds and the threat of flooding.
The National Weather Service issued coastal flood warnings for parts of New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.