January 25, 2000, began like a normal, but cold, day in Raleigh, N.C. In a city – like most – obsessed with the weather, there had been a winter storm watch for up to 5 inches issued the night before, but the weather system didn't even rank as a "one-loaf" event from forecasters (meaning no need to rush out to get milk and bread).
But in the mid-afternoon, a dark, blue-gray front of clouds built up to the west. Within hours, the snow came – and came and came. A day later, Raleigh – which gets an average of 7 inches of snow a year – lay buried under two feet of heavy powder, grinding the city to a halt.
With most of its snowclearing assets amassed in the mountains, the state took over a week to dig the city out. The sudden storm went on to bury Washington, sparking snowball fights between White House staffers and cancelling a global warming conference in the process.