All at Once, It's Winter
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Washington area drivers can expect another difficult trek to work this morning. Freezing overnight temperatures were expected to leave some roads dangerously slick, a day after motorists suffered through an excruciating commute and a rude reintroduction to winter.
Snow continued to fall late last night in many areas, with accumulation varying from two inches in the District to six inches in Anne Arundel County. In Fairfax County, a vehicle slammed into two Virginia state troopers' cars as they stood at the scene of a previous accident, temporarily closing part of the inner loop of the Capital Beltway. And the iced-over Roosevelt Bridge between the District and Arlington was closed for about three hours.
Temperatures in the mid-20s are expected this morning, later rising to the mid-30s. Andy Woodcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the glare from bright sun and moisture on windshields could add to commuters' woes.
"There's potential for a messy commute," he said.
Lora Rakowski, a Maryland State Highway Adminstration spokeswoman, said road crews would be treating roads throughout the night.
"Primary and secondary roads should be clear," she said. But "on side streets and secondary roads, motorists really [need] to stay vigilant."
Many school systems waited until early this morning to announce closures. Anne Arundel announced it would delay opening by two hours.
Earlier yesterday, slippery stretches and a potent mix of highly cautious and overly confident drivers left traffic lanes packed and shoulders dotted with spun-out cars and scraped-up guard rails across the region yesterday. Hundreds of accidents were reported during the morning rush, preventing highway crews from effectively treating roads.
Area transportation officials said they generally do not pre-treat road surfaces with salt and chemicals because wind and Washington's heavy traffic would scatter it. After the snow started to fall early in yesterday's rush hour instead of later in the morning, as some officials had expected, they said they were unable to quickly treat roads that had already become jammed. Traffic problems persisted during the evening commute as snow continued to fall over much of the region.
Dozens more accidents were reported last night, with many drivers ending up in ditches, mostly near overpasses.
In the District, authorities shut down the Roosevelt Bridge after it iced over about 8 p.m., and continued "a partial deployment" throughout the night, treating bridges, primary and secondary roads, said Karyn LeBlanc, a District Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
State troopers in Maryland and Virginia reported similar conditions on highway ramps, particularly the flyover lanes of the Springfield interchange. In Fairfax County, a tractor-trailer slid into a Jersey barrier on eastbound Interstate 66. Snowfall continued until after 9 p.m. across Southern Maryland, prompting officials to institute an emergency snow plan in Calvert County. In Montgomery County, firefighters responded to a pair of chimney fires after occupants overloaded a fireplace and stoves, officials said.