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Posted at 1:15 PM ET, 12/16/2010

A rough commute home

By Michael D. Bolden

Share and view photos | Predict snow totals | Snow guide

[This post will be updated]

Drivers faced a long slog through the darkness as slippery roads made the ride home dangerous and delayed those those who depend on public transit.

Thursday's snowfall dropped as much as two inches across the region. Crews spread sand and chemicals, but problems were apparent everywhere, including interstates and other major highways.

Virginia State Police said they had responded to almost 1,700 calls for service between 5 a.m. and noon Thursday, with 580 crashes and 200 stuck vehicles. In Loudoun County, officials warned motorists of delays on multiple routes due to icing. The Virginia Department of Transportation said several accidents had been reported along Interstate 66, with slowdowns stretching from Arlington County into Prince William.

District officials deployed 200 trucks throughout the city. D.C. Fire / EMS officials said call volume was heavy and deployed additional resources Thursday afternoon.

The Office of Personnel Management gave employees the option of leaving work early due to snowy conditions, but offices would remain open.

in Arlington, the ART bus service warned that some routes on side streets will not be served. Officials said updates would be posted to the Arlington Transit Web site.

Maryland officials said almost 1,400 State Highway Administration crews treated roadways throughout the state. In Harford County Interstate 95 southbound was closed when a tractor-trailer overturned.

In Montgomery County several accidents delayed travel on Interstate 270, Rockville Pike and other roads. Metro officials announced that crews would be on standby to remove snow from throughout the transit network to keep buses, trains and paratransit vans operating.

Transit officials urged passengers to use caution on station platforms and other areas that may become slippery.

The Maryland Transit Administration announced that MARC rail passengers would be able to use Metrorail for free by showing their tickets to station managers. At least one train was canceled due to snow-related equipment problems, and some trains that did operate were running more than 50 minutes late.

The city of Frederick declared a snow emergency after crews determined that chemicals being used to treat snow and ice on the streets were not being effective. Frederick officials declared liberal leave at 2 p.m. and canceled a Board of Aldermen meeting scheduled for Thursday night. The declaration of the snow emergency meant residents could no longer park on designated snow emergency routes and risked being towed.

As officials turned their eyes to the Friday commute, they warned that drivers may continue to face problems with slick roads.

What did you see in your neighborhood or on the roads and rails? Post a comment below.

By Michael D. Bolden  | December 16, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  District, Driving, Metro, MetroAccess, Metrobus  
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Comments

Snow doesn't cause accidents, bad drivers do.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 16, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Snow doesn't cause accidents, bad drivers do.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 16, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: I'm worried that drivers will look out on this little coating of snow and think, "I handled a lot worse last winter," and go out driving as normal.

The coating of snow is thin, but very slippery. Neighborhood streets in particular can be treacherous. Braking for a stop sign, or turning a corner can put drivers into a skid, and since this is their first experience in many months, they may not be prepared to deal with it.

Drivers and pedestrians should look out for each other. Pedestrians should realize that stopping distances will be greater this afternoon. Drivers should know that pedestrians are going to be moving more slowly and cautiously as they cross streets.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | December 16, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

People should remember (Even you, with the AWD SUV) that slamming on your brakes is NOT an effective way to stop on snow and ice.

Posted by: aschreur | December 16, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

One of the things that I wonder about is how many drivers are familiar with the operation of their anti-lock brakes. With anti-lock brakes, you're supposed to put firm pressure on the pedal and keep it there. You don't pump the brakes like you did with older cars because the ABS system will do that for you at a speed much faster than you can manage. But I know several people who, in past years, said that they thought there was something wrong with their ABS systems because the pedal started vibrating and making a noise sort of like popping popcorn, so they let up on the pedal. That's wrong--the vibration and noise means the system is doing exactly what it's supposed to do! By releasing the pedal, you defeat the purpose of having an ABS system!


With that said, though, aschreur makes a valid point about the SUV drivers. All-wheel or four-wheel drive doesn't help you stop once you're moving. All it does is to help you to get moving in the first place.


My biggest pet peeve in snow like we have today is with the people who don't use their headlights, especially people in light-colored cars. They get swallowed up and become invisible. (I say "in snow like we have today" because there hasn't been enough snow, and it's not packed enough, for uncleared snow on roofs to become a serious issue. In a heavier storm, that becomes my biggest pet peeve, and I'd love to see someone prosecuted for reckless endangerment for failing to clean snow off a vehicle's roof in a bigger snowfall than this one.)

Posted by: 1995hoo | December 16, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

In my area of Manassas, we already have more than two inches, and it is slippery snow! We slipped and slid so badly just going down our street, we turned around and barely made it back home. I sure hope plows get out in force, because that was one scary short ride.

Posted by: homeschool4joy | December 16, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock: Please stop calling a vehicle colliding with an object (another vehicle or a median divider or a stop sign, etc.) an "accident". These are crashes and are the result of driver error; these are not accidents; they are avoidable.

Posted by: GA_Today | December 16, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Proof once again that drivers in this area don't know crap about driving in snow/ice conditions. Or any kind of slippery condition actually. The residents of Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis are probably laughing their butts off over our inability to cope with an amount of snow that in IL, WI, or MN wouldn't even be worth mentioning...

Posted by: dstreet208 | December 16, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Slippery sidewalks too! Two people fell on 16th and K Streets NW, so slow down and step carefully! To the women with four inch heels on: you look cute but are you nuts?

Posted by: shejoy | December 16, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Slippery sidewalks too! Two people fell on 16th and K Streets NW, so slow down and step carefully! To the women with four inch heels on: you look cute but are you nuts?

Posted by: shejoy | December 16, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

For some reason, this snow is very slick! I am an experienced winter driver, who grew up in a northern city, and I spun out going around a corner. I thought I was going a few mph faster than the no-skid speed. There were no other cars at the 3-lanes-wide intersection, and I wanted to practice recovering from a slight skid. But I was actually going about 10 mph too fast. Skid recovery did nothing to help; car just kept going until the tires thumped the median strip curb (fortunately not too fast, so no damage). Quite a revelation, though. It is ICY! I crawled the rest of the trip, and still felt a loss of traction several times. And that was at 11:15 am.

Posted by: dmm1 | December 16, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

For some reason, this snow is very slick! I am an experienced winter driver, who grew up in a northern city, and I spun out going around a corner. I thought I was going a few mph faster than the no-skid speed. There were no other cars at the 3-lanes-wide intersection, and I wanted to practice recovering from a slight skid. But I was actually going about 10 mph too fast. Skid recovery did nothing to help; car just kept going until the tires thumped the median strip curb (fortunately not too fast, so no damage). Quite a revelation, though. It is ICY! I crawled the rest of the trip, and still felt a loss of traction several times. And that was at 11:15 am.

Posted by: dmm1 | December 16, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Roads are MUCH MUCH worse than you would think from the small amount of snow out there. Everything is turning to frozen sleet, you can't see the lane markings, and you WILL skid if you have to move your tires out of the ruts. I see NO EVIDENCE that DDOT has salted or sanded or plowed any streets in the District. Is Gabe Klein's final FU to drivers?

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 16, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

An hour ago, East West highway between BCC High School and Connecticut Avenue was treacherous, especially going up hill in either direction. This was at 5-10 mph.

Posted by: Murre | December 16, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"Is Gabe Klein's final FU to drivers?"

Yes. Gabe Klein hates every automobile driver in the city, and thinks they should all die, so yes WD, yes you caught him! Did you notice that he plowed the bike lanes? Can you believe that?!?!

I just saw the sanding truck on K st, moving west from 14th, FYI. But it is slippery out there, saw 2 people eat concrete crossing K St. Stay OFF the painted lines people.


Posted by: Greent | December 16, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I love the snow. I am reading this and driving at the same time. Wooho

Posted by: driver83 | December 16, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

"In Montgomery County several accidents were delaying travel on Interstate 270, Rockville Pile and other roads."

Where in the world is Rockville Pile? Can we get an editor in here?

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | December 16, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, GA_Today, but a vehicle colliding with another object is not always 100% avoidable in inclement weather. That's why they're called accidents. That said, drivers do need to slow down, turn on their lights, and stop thinking they're invincible just because they're in an SUV.

Posted by: lgp2 | December 16, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Rockville Pile is not a typo tonight.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | December 16, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Effected? Any editing going on over there?

Posted by: wmarkscott | December 16, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

The B30 bus to BWI this afternoon was a disgrace. The 1:20 bus didn't show up at all, leaving a huge crowd to board the 2:00 bus. Even worse, the driver of the 2:00 bus cut off passengers from boarding and said that he was "behind schedule", departing while there was still empty space on the bus!

The next bus wasn't until 2:40, which left on time, but its arrival was delayed by 90 minutes due to the traffic on the BW Parkway. Numerous passengers on the bus were calling their airlines attempting to rebook, as they missed their flights while sitting in traffic on the bus.

How does one plan ahead for such a thing? When you show up at the bus stop before 2 PM, you don't expect to be waiting until 4:45 PM to get to the airport!

What ever happened to Metro's policy of adding buses to the B30 line when the crowd of passengers grew too great? The driver of the 2:00 bus clearly saw the situation that had developed, but he was indifferent or clueless.

Posted by: stuckman | December 16, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

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