Winter started acting like winter yesterday as freezing rain and sleet fell throughout the Washington area, but police said it only slowed evening rush-hour traffic and weather forecasters said they expected no serious problems for the morning rush hour. The icy rain, which began falling sporadically in the District and outlying area at midmorning and continued intermittently through the day and evening, created hazardous driving conditions in some of the outlying areas.
But few accidents, none of them serious, had been reported as of late last night, and police said only little-used rural roads, primarily in Western Maryland, were icy.
Forecasters for the National Weather Service said they didn't expect temperatures to drop below freezing overnight in the close-in areas. Temperatures are expected to rise into the 40s later today, and the rain is expected to end by tonight.
Weather conditions were reported to be more severe west and north of the city, especially in the upper regions of Montgomery County in Maryland and in Loudoun and Fairfax counties in Virginia.
Some residents in western Fairfax said last night that trees and power lines were laden fingers of ice, and power company officials reported minor, scattered power outages throughout the area due to the icy rain. Most of the outages were caused by powerlines being pulled down by the weight of ice accumulations or falling trees, officials said.
A Virginia Electric and Power Co. official said, "It looks like we'll be working through the night" attempting to restore power to more than 3,200 customers in the Springfield and Annandale areas of Fairfax County.
The National Weather Service maintained a traveler's advisory during the afternoon and night for the northern and western suburbs, as temperatures at Dulles and National airports hovered at the freezing mark.
Major airports in the area remained open, although light rain and ice pellets forced some minor scheduling delays, officials said.
Driving was considered so hazardous in Montgomery County that school officials postponed until today those high school basketball games that had been scheduled for last night. Many after-school activities were also canceled in Fairfax County.
A rain-producing low pressure system was moving north from Georgia and the Carolinas, causing precipitation south of Quantico, Va., and sleet and freezing rain to the north, according to Walter Green, a weather service forecaster.
In the District, where temperatures generally were warmer than in the suburbs, traffic authorities reported no serious accidents. However, D.C. salt trucks were sent out ont the streets to respond to icy conditions on the bridges and elsewhere, and traffic tie-ups were common during rush hour, authorities said.