Foggy conditions in D.C. Monday caused disruptions, delays

On Monday morning in Washington, the haze lifts to reveal the outline of the Capitol dome near the Capitol Christmas Tree. The Tuesday forecast is for cloudy, mild weather with highs in the 50s.
On Monday morning in Washington, the haze lifts to reveal the outline of the Capitol dome near the Capitol Christmas Tree. The Tuesday forecast is for cloudy, mild weather with highs in the 50s. (Gerald Martineau/Washington Post)
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By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fog that was dense, durable and in a way historic blanketed parts of the Washington area Monday, cutting visibility on highways and runways and causing delays and difficulties for drivers and airline passengers.

After their flights from New York were delayed by the fog, three leaders of major American banks missed a scheduled appearance at the White House for a historic meeting with the president. They settled for participating by phone.

Monday's thick, gray murk "created a number of diversions and cancellations and delays," particularly at Reagan National Airport, said Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Some pilots began descending on their approaches to National, only to give up, turn away and head for alternate airports.

"We did have some diversions," including flights sent to Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, or, in at least one case, to Harrisburg, Pa., said US Airways spokeswoman Liz Landau.

Fog began forming Sunday night, said Rob Yingling, spokesman for the agency that operates National and Dulles International airports.

The fog affected Sunday night arrivals, he said, and inbound flights were delayed or canceled throughout Monday morning.

Normal operations did not resume until about noon, Yingling said.

For a "morning fog event," he said, "this is unusual in its duration." The FAA's Brown agreed.

"It took quite a while to lift," she said. "For some reason, the fog hung around longer than you might expect."

National Weather Service records show that the visibility at National, usually about 10 miles, fell to about 200 yards Sunday night and then to half that early Monday. After fluctuating during the morning, it had fallen again to about 100 yards at 11 a.m. Monday.

Foggy conditions and icy patches were linked to numerous highway collisions during the morning rush, and efforts to glimpse the wreckage and peer through the enveloping mists were blamed for commuter delays.

Fog is formed close to the ground in much the same way that clouds are created at higher altitudes, by the cooling and condensation of moisture carried in the air.

Cold ground in contact with damp warmer air just above it, often creates fog, particularly in early winter.

A weather service forecast issued about 7:30 p.m. Monday predicted some fog Tuesday morning in the Washington area, but it wasn't expected to be as bad as on Monday.


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