The National Weather Service canceled its winter storm warning for the Washington area, which had been expected to get 5 to 10 inches of wet snow, but that came after much of official Washington had already shut down.
Washington got a dusting of snow, not enough to make slush.
"It's just not panning out to be the storm we'd thought it would be," said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.
The federal government closed offices Wednesday, as did schools in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland and Ohio.
Forecasters had predicted the system could drop up to 20 inches of heavy, wet snow west of the nation's capital and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonald declared a state of emergency and called up 100 National Guard troops.
The storm knocked out electrical power to nearly 180,000 people, Dominion Power said. Airlines canceled more than 1,600 flights.
Coastal flood warnings were in effect for parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
As it powered through the Midwest Tuesday, the storm left up to foot of snow in parts of Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota and elsewhere.
When the storm trekked through the Ohio Valley and the central Appalachians, it also left heavy accumulations in some areas.
The storm was blamed for at least one death -- a truck driver whose rig ran off a snow- and ice-slicked Interstate-94 near Menomonie, Wis., Tuesday and into a river.
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport recorded 9.2 inches of snow, eclipsing a 1999 record for that date by 6 inches and bringing the seasonal snowfall to within an inch of the average. It was the largest snowfall in Chicago since the 2011 blizzard on Groundhog Day, the weather service said.