Rush-hour commuters endured a treacherous drive home yesterday as freezing rain and sleet pelted the Washington region, causing numerous accidents, shutting some roads and slowing traffic on others to a crawl.

Officials warned last night that the icy conditions are expected to persist this morning, promising more misery for commuters.

An accident involving a tractor-trailer and several cars closed southbound Interstate 95 at the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County about 6 p.m., according to Maryland State Police. Maryland police closed northbound I-95 in eastern Howard County between Route 100 and the Baltimore County line because of numerous accidents.

The road was reopened in both directions a short time later.

Police also reported accidents along Route 50 from the District to the Prince George's-Anne Arundel County line, including a pileup with 10 cars and a tractor-trailer.

In Prince George's County, police said one person was killed in an accident at Route 210 (Indian Head Highway) and Farmington Road about 5:30 p.m. The woman, identified as Lykema Sandra Owens, 40, of Oxon Hill, lost control of her 1978 Corvette on an icy bridge, struck a guard rail and was then hit by another car, police said.

Virginia State Police said 45 accidents had been reported on interstate highways in the area as of mid-evening. No serious injuries were reported.

State troopers patrolling Virginia roads reported trouble spots on every major artery from Alexandria to Leesburg. Troopers had difficulty getting through accident-snarled traffic to help motorists, said dispatcher Steve Benson.

"We've got freezing rain coming down and it's a mess," Benson said. "Traffic is traveling about five miles an hour. It's stop-and-go everywhere."

A 10-car accident caused by ice was reported about 6:30 p.m. near Union Mill and Compton roads in the Fair Oaks section of Fairfax County, said Lt. Mike Lomonaco, assistant commander of Fairfax's traffic division.

Lomonaco said that a total of 74 accidents had been reported in the county from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. None caused serious injury, he said, mainly because traffic was moving so slowly.

Traffic was snarled on the outer loop of the Capital Beltway near Telegraph Road in Virginia about 6 p.m. because of an accident.

Collisions also were reported in both directions on Shirley Highway on both sides of the Beltway and on the Dulles Toll Road near Route 28.

Several accidents also were reported on the 14th Street bridges near the Pentagon, slowing the commute out of Washington into Virginia to a crawl.

In Arlington, a section of Route 1 between South 15th and South 20th streets was closed for 1 1/2 hours because of ice, said Victoria Kennedy, a communications supervisor with the county police.

About 40 accidents, some very minor, were reported in Arlington by 7:30 p.m. The main trouble spots were in the Crystal City-Pentagon area, where overpasses, ramps and bridges turned icy.

"That area has an awful lot of traffic and it iced up very fast," Kennedy said.

Three Virginia State Police motorist assistance teams were moving from accident to accident trying to clear roads. The state Department of Transportation's special detail to help disabled motorists contributed six trucks, which worked to get stranded motorists on their way and out of traffic, Benson said.

Some police departments and emergency personnel were too busy to take calls from anyone who was not reporting an accident.

"Sorry, we are real busy right now. You'll have to call back later on," a Prince William County Fire Department dispatcher snapped.

Many Prince William County roads were black mirrors of ice that were hazardous obstacle courses for motorists returning from jobs in the District.

County police reported a dozen weather-related accidents by 7 p.m., mostly fender-benders.

Police and public works officials in the District reported no major accidents during the evening rush hour.

"We're out there and we're spreading {salt and sand} and we will be out there all night," said Tara Hamilton, D.C. public works spokeswoman. "We just hope the temperatures stay up."

Meteorologist Kenneth W. Reeves of Accu-Weather said the freezing rain made roads even more hazardous than if it had snowed.

"At least cars have a fighting chance with snow," Reeves said.

No precipitation is expected today and temperatures should get into the low 40s under partly cloudy skies, said Ray Brady, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Thursday also will be partly sunny with temperatures in the mid-40s. The next rain or snow for the area could come on Friday, officials said.

Those who weren't so sure about their ability to maneuver past the slick spots stayed home or took Metro.

Ridership on Metro was up slightly yesterday, 178,497 riders for the morning rush hour, said agency spokeswoman Marilyn Dicus.

Staff writers Deneen L. Brown, Veronica T. Jennings, Nancy Lewis and Debbi Wilgoren contributed to this report.