[This post has been updated; 10:06 a.m.]
Drivers who had to venture out Saturday appeared to be moving at a cautious but steady pace on the region’s major roadways.
Traffic on 295 southbound at the Beltway briefly came to a halt after a vehicle fire shut down all lanes. The District Department of Transportation warned that water used to put out the fire had turned the road icy. And multiple lanes of I-270 southbound temporarily closed after an accident at Democracy Boulevard. However, many travelers reported navigable conditions around 495 and beyond.
Throughout the region, drivers were confronted with the possibility of a dramatic difference in conditions between those roads and the streets in commercial and residential areas could be dramatic. Virtually all of the key highways in Maryland, Virginia and the District had been pre-treated with ice-melting chemicals in anticipation of the mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain that began in the over-night hours. A few, but far from all, other streets received the same treatment.
Bridges, ramps and elevated roadways in the District had been treated with beet-juice brine days in advance of the forecast lousy weather, and the city put 200 plows on the streets overnight to combat any build up on other major roads has the temperatures hung at that menacing level that causes rain and sleet to freeze when it makes contact with a cold roadway.
In Maryland, officials gave the usual advice about staying off the roads unless a trip is unavoidable, and going slowly if they venture out.
“Drivers should check conditions at www.MD511.org or call 511 for current travel and weather information before heading out this morning,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters. “Crews worked through overnight to treat and clear roads. However, tonight’s lower temperatures will increase the potential for icy roads and traveler’s will need to be extremely cautious.”
Virginia drivers have a similar option of checking va511.org before venturing out.
Peters said drivers should be particularly careful on ramps, bridges and overpasses, which are more at risk to freeze than mainline highways where ground temperatures can keep pavements warmer. She asked people to clear ice from their vehicles before they set out, including mirrors, headlights and all windows. Chips of ice that dislodge from moving vehicles become dangerous projectiles for other drivers.
The Virginia Department of Transportation reported icy and snowy conditions on multiple routes in Loudoun.
The city of Alexandria reported that its crews treated primary roads, bridges and overpasses during the nights hours. Workers were treating secondary roads throughout the morning.
The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles delayed opening until 10 a.m., saying driver tests planned for earlier would be rescheduled.
Metro was not reporting any delays related to the weather, although passengers on all five rail lines were affected by scheduled track work. Medical Ccenter station is also closed for the weekend.
Riders, however, were urged to use caution on outdoor rail platforms and at bus stops where ice and snow could make conditions slippery.
Capital Bikeshare announced that its stations around the area are open, but cyclists were urged to use caution, too.
All three of the region’s major airports reported that flights were arriving and departing on time, except for those bound for Philadelphia, where snow and ice were causing delays of up to two hours.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Reagan National and Dulles International airports said some individual flights may be affected by delays and cancellations. Some airlines had issued waivers, allowing travelers to reschedule flights without penalty.
If you are scheduled to fly on Saturday, check with your airline to see if your travel plans have been affected by the weather.
Here are some resources to use:
Airline weather information