• Virginia’s governor has declared a state of emergency in response to the winter storm.
• Metro reported that many of its bus routes throughout the region were delayed or detouring.
• Delays remained on Capital Beltway near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Updated at 11:39 a.m.
Roads in the region had cleared to normal traffic levels by mid-morning on Thursday after a rough commute for many from Wednesday night’s snowfall.
City and regional leaders apologized for roads not being better prepared and said they were ready for Friday’s storm that is expected to dump possibly 20 inches of snow on the region.
Updated at 8:08 a.m.
Even with the sun up Thursday morning, officials warned drivers should still use caution as icy spots remained throughout the region.
The biggest problem remains on the inner loop of the Capital Beltway from Route 4 to the Woodrow Wilson bridge. Officials said tractor trailers and vehicles became stuck overnight on the roadway as they tried to navigate slick spots where there are some slight inclines and get around fender benders in that stretch of the roadway.
Only at daybreak did some of the traffic start to move and it was still slow in the morning commute.
— Julie Wright (@thejuliewright) January 21, 2016
Police agencies throughout the region said they were slammed with calls from motorists overnight and throughout the morning.
At the College Park barracks of the Maryland State Police, one trooper said “Oh my God,” in terms of the call volume. They were averaging at least six calls for accidents an hour and had another four or five calls on hold.
“And that’s the ones we know about,” said the sergeant. The incidents involved fender benders.
There was one fatal crash in Beltsville early Thursday morning. State police said a private pickup that had a snow plow on it struck a man who was walking along US 1 near Naples Avenue. The pickup was not using its snow plow at the time.
Updated at 7:05 a.m.
Commuters continued to face delays on D.C. area roadways as the sun rose Thursday morning and icy conditions remained with some drivers still on the roadway from Wednesday evening.
Forecasters and area highway and government officials Monday morning quarterbacked about how the snowfall Wednesday night turned out to be worse than they expected because the one inch of snow fell on already cold roadways.
That meant Thursday morning’s commute was still a mess in Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District. Virginia State Police said they were on the scene early Thursday morning of 33 accidents around the state, including 24 in Northern Virginia.
Original post at 5:20 a.m.
Drivers around the D.C. region should use caution and expect major — major — delays Thursday morning, highway officials and police agencies said. Many major area roadways, including the Capital Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway are a mess, marked by icy patches and clogged roads because many commuters still had not gotten home from hours of being stuck Wednesday night after an inch of snow fell. That combined with the usual morning rush hour for Thursday means there will be another mess, officials said, as they warned drivers to allow extra time and leave plenty of space between vehicles.
“The blacktop doesn’t mean you are clear,” said Taran Hutchinson, a spokesman for MATOC — the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination. “It could look black but there is ice and it may have refrozen. Watch the ramps, side streets and elevated surfaces.” He said that until the sun comes up there will still be slick spots.
On the roads, there were no major accidents reported, highway officials said, but dozens of incidents involving two or three cars that had fender-benders or simply slid off the road. There were earlier delays on Metro’s Red Line because of a disabled train near the Forest Glen stop but that problem was quickly resolved. And Metro and other area bus services had suspended some of their routes due to icy road conditions. At area airports, there were no reports of major delays.
The big mess was on the roadways. And some roads were closed at various times Thursday morning, as crews dealt with crashes.
— Holly Morris (@HollyLiveFox5DC) January 21, 2016
Just before 6 a.m., officials said there were some temporary closures of Interstate 95 between Route 216 and Route 32 as they worked to remove vehicles involved in earlier crashes. And Sligo Creek Parkway in Montgomery County was closed until 7:30 a.m. because of icy conditions.
One of the biggest problems that still remained Thursday morning was on the inner and outer loops of the Beltway near the Woodrow Wilson bridge and on the Beltway where delays were up to six miles and at the Beltway and Connecticut Avenue in Montgomery County. Traffic in those spots was just starting to loosen up from commuters being stuck overnight in getting home. Other problems for Thursday morning were along the American Legion bridge in Maryland and Virginia, along with Route 66 near Glebe Road in Northern Virginia where icy conditions remained.
— Kristin Lishowid (@kristinmick21) January 21, 2016
There was a report of a fatal crash involving a private snow plow hitting a person in the Beltsville area on Wednesday night. No further details were immediately available.
On Metro, the transit agency had suspended some of its service on certain routes or detoured them because of road conditions. It was operating as of 5 a.m. on a “moderate” snow service plan. Other county bus routes, including in Fairfax were also warning that service would be suspended because of icy road conditions.
Dozens of schools around the region were closed or delayed.
Highway authorities said many of the Thursday morning backups were leftover from Wednesday night, officials said. In Prince George’s County, tractor trailers on both sides of the Beltway had struggled all night to get around curves and up inclines near the Woodrow Wilson bridge. And on the Beltway and other major roadways, salt trucks were out in full force with early morning commuters, adding to delays. Virginia highway officials said they had 500 trucks out treating icy spots.
Why was it all still so bad Thursday morning?
Wednesday night’s inch of snowfall hit during rush hour and road temperatures were already cold, combined with the fact that many agencies were so focused on getting ready for Friday’s expected big storm so not as many trucks were out and ready to go.
“The thin layer of packed snow, combined with overnight freezing temperatures made it tough,” Hutchinson said.
“A lot of us were looking at the big event of what’s coming Friday afternoon and this also put down a bit more snow [Wednesday night] than we expected,” Hutchinson said. “We didn’t think it was going to have as much impact as it has had. We were thinking it was going to be a dusting. But it came down, gets packed down and refreezes and then there’s a thin layer of ice on an already extremely cold temperatures.” And much of the snowfall started and lasted throughout Wednesday’s evening rush hour.
“All of that was a factor,” he said. That meant agencies have been in overdrive Wednesday night and into Thursday morning to treat roads.
On Thursday morning, photos on Twitter showed bumper-to-bumper traffic throughout the region, but mainly trouble spots remained on the Beltway.
4:45A: This is what the innerloop at Connecticut looks like..hours after a small clipper pushed through. Very icy. pic.twitter.com/6eNR62cYrE
— Annie Yu (@AnnieYuFox5) January 21, 2016
Throughout the area, there were reports of problems for Thursday morning’s commute.
Lanes along Interstate 95 in Fairfax, along with a crash at Md. 650 and Adelphi Road were causing delays in the Thursday morning commute. In Montgomery County, there were reports of emergency road work at U.S. 29 and Md. 123 in the Silver Spring area.
One major trouble spot was at the Connecticut Avenue exit on the Beltway, as crews reported icy patches that thawed and then refroze overnight. Another troubled area was at the Woodrow Wilson bridge along the Beltway were riders reported being stuck in traffic for seven hours Wednesday night. In Montgomery County, authorities said they received more than 225 calls because of the weather conditions in an eight-hour period.
— Kimberly Cook (@kcook10338) January 21, 2016
Forecasters are expecting a major snow storm to hit the D.C. region beginning Friday and lasting through the weekend.