Freezing weather reminiscent of 1994

(WJLA) - Ice cold arctic air drove into the D.C. region on Monday night, bringing temperatures dangerously low. Factor in the wind, and you’ve got misery-inducing conditions.

Despite visiting from Minnesota, visitor Salwa Muhidin didn’t bring a winter hat.

"I'm actually wanting to get a hat to keep my head warm. I didn't really think about that when I came outside, I was too excited to see the sights," she said.

It was a mistake she quickly resolved with money well-spent.

Meanwhile, the unwelcome weather drove many indoors. Elizabeth Rice used a cozy coffee house in Arlington as a refuge:

"I'm curious, I've never been here when it's been this cold before, and I just don't know how people are going to respond to that."

She and many others just hope they can withstand North Pole-like temperatures, which we haven’t felt in years.

"Polar vortex sounds pretty scary. I think I felt better when it was just cold." said Rice.

Less than two weeks from today will mark the 20th anniversary of the last time it was colder than it is expected to be on Monday night.

District resident Paula Ward says she remembers: "Ice and cold."

"You couldn't even come outside, hands were frozen," adds Samir Osman.

Back then, although it was well below freezing, it still rained and sleeted – and then temperatures plunged more, going as low as -4 degrees at Reagan National and worse than that in the suburbs.

The result? D.C. was completely frozen over.

On the Potomac River back then, this Rockville family wasn’t ice skating on an outdoor rink – they were on a tennis court! In a way, ice skates were safer than walking in conditions like these.

Driving wasn’t such a great idea either, as ice led to terrible accidents like this one on I-95. The ice was still on the highway because solid plows couldn’t get through such frozen conditions. Salt was also futile, and though sand worked initially, it eventually froze over.

"I am declaring a state of emergency," said former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly back in 1994, who urged area residents not to go to work.

This year, some are still having to take the day off -- but not by choice.

"I lost a day's pay because I couldn't move the company truck," said one worker.