Ice here and there but not everywhere, as the weather fault line divides the D.C. region

By mid-day Wednesday, the freezing rain that hit the Washington area overnight and left slippery sidewalks and icy roadways had turned to just rain, allowing weekday routines to resume and forecasters to focus on a possible snowstorm coming this weekend.

Temperatures rose above the freezing mark by mid-morning. Forecasters said they expect no precipitation the next few days as temperatures stay chilly. But there is some uncertainty about how much snowfall the region could get in a possible storm Sunday night and into Monday, according to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Wednesday’s icy weather caused some morning troubles. MARC train had repeated problems on its Brunswick line and at one point had to suspend service for a few hours because of downed trees and power lines. Metro had no weather-related delays. VRE reported no major delays but warned riders to be careful walking in parking lots and on platforms that could be slippery.

Travelers faced delays and cancellations at the region’s three airports. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles International and Reagan National airports, warned of “significant” issues through the morning hours.

More than 130 flights were halted at Dulles, and another 130 flights were nixed at National Wednesday morning, according to FlightAware. In addition, more than 80 flights at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport were canceled.

There were no major roadway accidents reported in Wednesday morning’s commute. But parts of Interstate 95 northbound in Northern Virginia had heavy traffic backups. There were no major weather-related accidents on the Beltway reported.

Authorities reminded drivers to allow extra time in their commutes and to slow down on bridges and ramps that may become icy before roadways.

East of the Beltway, squadrons of salt trucks from the Maryland State Highway Administration sat on the shoulder at 6 a.m., having already treated the highways. Some trucks were still salting secondary roads and side streets.

The federal government remained open Wednesday, but Montgomery, Howard, Loudoun and Frederick County public schools closed for the day. Schools in Fairfax, Anne Arundel and Stafford counties planned to open two hours late.

Some parents in Montgomery County were surprised the schools closed Wednesday because of icy weather conditions. Schools officials said Montgomery fell in line with counties such as Frederick and Howard, which also closed schools. They pointed out that Montgomery is north of districts such as Fairfax, which opened late but did not close.

“The roads were very icy, especially in the northern part of the county,” said Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig. “Our buses were covered in ice.”

Even with a two-hour delay in the opening time, buses must be ready by 8 am, he said. “We didn’t feel we could safely transport kids to school,” he said. “The roads and the buses were not going to be ready.”

The ice also caused some power outages, although nothing widespread. Just after noon, in Montgomery County, about 4,600 customers were without power; about 800 had no power in Northern Virginia; and three customers had no power in Prince George’s County. There were no power outages reported in the District.

Across much of the region, a light rain Tuesday night turned to ice when it made contact with frozen ground. Steadier freezing rain fell across parts of Loudoun, Montgomery and Howard counties and areas north.

In most areas, the ice coated side streets and left a shimmer on street lamps and tree limbs by early Wednesday morning. The thickness varied — from roughly one-tenth of an inch in the District to about twice that in portions of Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, and further west in the Shenandoah Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

In Germantown, Sterling and Rockville, there was a quarter-inch of ice, according to the weather service. Herndon had 0.13 inch of ice.

Ronald Byrd, 52, said he had anticipated a slippery commute, heeding forecasters’ warnings Tuesday night. Instead, the fashion and style blogger found no signs of dangerous conditions for either pedestrians or motorists as he waited Wednesday morning for a bus near the intersection of 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue.

“I kind of expected it to be actually worse than it is today,” said Byrd, who lives in Columbia Heights.

He said he was having a “more leisurely” morning than normal, attending appointments as opposed to taking his usual commute. Still, the weather did not faze him.

“It’s a typical rainy morning,” Byrd said, motioning to the uneventful street in front of him. “This is the way the transit flows, nothing different.”

Wintry weather also swept through other parts of the country Tuesday and overnight, with Kansas City getting hit with heavy snowfall and New York City officials warning drivers to stay off the roads and take the subway because of snow and freezing rain.

Donna St. George, Martin Weil, Patrick Svitek, Zach Cohen and Mark Berman contributed to this report.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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