After D.C. storm, bewildered drivers ask: 'Dude, where's my car?'

Drivers moved slowly on I-66 at Lynn Street in Rosslyn last night, even at 11 p.m.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 27, 2011; 10:49 PM

This is what happens the next morning - after the epic traffic jams are gone and hundreds of abandoned vehicles, emptied of gas and stuck in the snow, have been towed.

On Thursday, it was as though an entire city woke up to exclaim in a panicked, slightly screechy voice: "Dude, where's my car?"

And then, as the answer became increasingly clear and appallingly costly, came the anger.

All morning long at a Lorton impound lot, you could practically see the waves of resentment coming off people in the waiting room. At one point, the line of those searching for their cars after one of Washington's ugliest commutes went out the door.

But as each person stepped up to the counter to fork over the $200 impound fee, most simply muttered inaudibly underneath their breath.

"It's been a frustrating 24 hours for everyone," said a diplomatic J.J. Redman, whose father owns Redman Fleet Services' impound lot.

They had worked many snowstorms before, he said, as phones in the background rang nonstop, but this had been one of the worst. Overnight, their company had towed about 160 cars in Arlington and Fairfax.

And throughout the Washington region, other companies had done the same. Towing, officials said, clears the streets for plows and traffic. It reintroduces order to a city that has descended into a icy mess of snow and panicked drivers.

But towing also inevitably brings a wave of confusion.

On Thursday morning, Alvester Woolfolk, 22, returned to find his abandoned car gone from the exit ramp between the Beltway and Route 210. The night before, he'd spent hours on that small stretch of highway, where he'd helped to push other people's cars out of the snow. Finally, when he got back into his car, his own wheels had become stuck.

"I helped push seven cars out of trouble, but then when I looked back, I couldn't get no one to help me," he said. So he left his Oldsmobile Alero on the side of the ramp, and started the long walk to a Giant to get a ride from a friend.

The next day, it was as though the night before had never even happened. The snow was gone, as were the string of cars that had been abandoned alongside his. Police at the nearby precinct sent Woolfolk and his dad on a wild goose chase of impound lots, none of which had his car.

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