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Winter storm guide for roads, transit

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 11, 2010; 5:18 PM

Two weeks ago, we told you what our local transportation departments say they can do for you during a winter storm. Here's a look at what you can do for yourself when the Washington area is hit with snow or ice. This advice comes from transportation officials, Metro maintenance staff, plow drivers and ordinary travelers who have been getting around the area for years.

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Before driving. Get snow or ice off the vehicle, including the roof and side windows. You will be doing yourself a favor, because you will be able to see all around. And you'll be doing other drivers a favor, because they hate it when cars finally pick up speed and lose that crown of snow on top.

Also, be sure the battery is charged. Check wiper blades, tires, tire jack, antifreeze and lights. Keep gas tanks at least half full. Carry an emergency kit that includes a small shovel; a bag of rock salt, sand or cat litter; a scraper and brush; a flashlight with extra batteries; jumper cables; blankets; and a first-aid kit.

When driving. Don't use cruise control, allow extra room for stopping or for taking evasive action, turn your lights on and use your turn signals. Stick with the main roads as long as you can rather than detouring onto secondary routes.

Watch for pedestrians. During heavy storms, the streets may be in better condition than the sidewalks, so pedestrians will hop over snowbanks and walk wherever they can.

Don't crowd the plow. Plow operators ask, What's the point of trying to get ahead of trucks that are making the road behind them safer to use? Also, a plow operator has blind spots, especially behind and to the left.


Metrorail: Metro clears the areas around rail station entrances, but the walk to the entrance may be a struggle. Platform paving tiles can be treacherous beneath ice and snow. Metrorail will shut above-ground service when the snowfall reaches eight inches, so watch for announcements and be prepared to adjust your schedule.

Metrobus: Metro does not plow around bus stops. Bus routes and schedules become very fickle in snow and ice. Seek out buses that follow snow emergency routes. Don't rely heavily on the NextBus information system. It can't account for detours or traffic incidents.

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