As Usual, First Snowstorm Leaves Things a Little Flaky

The region copes with the season's first round of sleet, freezing rain and ice after Tuesday's snowfall.
By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The first significant snow storm of the season turned the region into a hushed, two-toned landscape yesterday filled with giddy kids off from school, skidding drivers and officials nervously eyeing the back half of a weather system that threatened to bring a second morning of challenging weather.

Late last night, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for inside the Capital Beltway with freezing rain expected to persist through this morning.

Several school systems in Virginia, including Loudoun and Prince William counties, canceled today's classes.

Snow gave way yesterday afternoon and evening to a mix of sleet and freezing rain. As much as a quarter-inch of ice could coat roads before the freezing rain turns to rain this morning, possibly as late as 9 a.m. around the District, the weather service said.

As for the snow, by last night about two inches had fallen across much of the area, with three inches measured in parts of Fairfax County. In the District, the snowfall was about 1 1/4 inches.

The storm came in two major waves, with snow falling steadily from 5 a.m. until about 2 or 3 p.m., then another round of wintry material starting about 4 p.m.

Given the hours of snow, traffic officials were pleased that daytime commutes proved relatively uneventful in the immediate Washington area.

However, two women were killed near Charlottesville when the vehicle in which they were riding skidded on ice on Route 29 and struck a tree, Virginia State Police said. State police also linked a fatal crash in Augusta County, Va., to the weather.

In Maryland, state police said weather appeared to contribute to a fatal crash on Rt. 15 in Frederick County, although it was not the main cause.

Closer to Washington, officers responded to hundreds of slip-and-slide fender benders on secondary roads, but there were no major accidents that police blamed on the weather.

"It was actually pretty good," said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Salmon of the day's traffic. He credited the early deployment of salt trucks for the relatively safe conditions on major roads. The department ran more than 1,000 salt and sand trucks during the day and planned to operate all night, Salmon said, and would be concentrating on commuter parking lots along interstates 95 and 66 in advance of this morning's rush. "We'll be ready."

With the forecast calling for a night of freezing rain to follow the snow, school officials said they would evaluate road conditions and decide before dawn whether to call off classes for a second day. A winter storm warning was in effect until noon today in Montgomery, Loudoun, Howard and Fauquier counties, and there is a winter weather advisory in the rest of the region. Temperatures were expected to climb above freezing soon after sunrise.

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