A painfully slow, icy commute -- even for Obama
Streets on major routes out of the District are crowded as drivers gingerly make their way into the suburbs.
At the intersection of Connecticut and Albemarle streets in Van Ness, buses
and cars were tangled going in every direction when the intersection became
essentially impassable for hours.
One bus blocked three lanes of Connecticut for more than 2 hours. Two Metro drivers - who declined to identify themselves because they said they were not authorized to speak to reporters - called it the worst travel conditions they have seen in the city during their combined 23 years of experience behind the wheel.
"This is just bad," said one seven year veteran as he tried to push a car that stuck in front of his his bus. "Last year was bad, but they stopped us just in time."
Metro officials said at about 7:30 that buses would be pulled out of service at about 9:30pm.
The drivers said the problems are compounded by technology on the newer
fleet of buses that cause the vehicles to "shut down" when sensors indicate
they have no traction.
With snow taking hold on highways in Northern Virginia, the Virginia Department of Transportation reported slow going, further hindered by a number of accidents. Cameras around the region were showing bumper-to-bumper traffic, and rides home were becoming white-knuckle rides lasting an hour or more.
Connecticut Avenue northbound out of the District was slowed to a crawl, less than 10 mph. Wisconsin was packed. The roads were icy, with side roads quickly developing a layer of snow and slush. Commuters and taxis were sliding on the streets.
"It's incredibly nasty," said VDOT spokesman Joan Morris. "It's going to be a long, painful rush hour. The rain overnight washed away a lot of the pre-treating we'd done, so motorists have to realized that we're stuck in the same traffic they are."
Even President Obama was stuck. The president headed to Wisconsin Wednesday morning to spread his State of the Union message. He rushed back to Andrews Air Force Base to beat the snowstorm, only to get stuck on the roads to the White House.
A ride that took 24 minutes Wednesday morning took 63 minutes Wednesday evening.
Police and fire departments reported dozens of minor accidents.
Montgomery County police have responded to 16 collisions and 17 disabled cars across the county.
Maryland State police report all major roads open, but dozens of vehicles have slid off roads, including 10 accidents in less than 90 minutes.
Virginia State Police said ramps to highways have hardly been treated, including the ramp from northbound I-495 to westbound I-66, which is closed, police said
Fairfax County reports at least 27 incidents with accidents, minor injuries from accidents and disabled cars.
Virginia State Police troopers in the Northern VA region have responded to 33 traffic crashes and 42 disabled vehicles between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. today, with two involving injuries.
The cities of Falls Church and Manassas both declared snow emergencies, at 4 and 6 p.m. respectively, declaring certain routes no-parking zones to facilitate plowing and keep transportation moving as smoothly as possible under difficult conditions.
District officials were uncertain whether they declare an emergency, said William O. Howland Jr., director of of the D.C. Department of Public Works. Howland said officials will be assessing the storm throughout the night so resident should keep up with media reports
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said heavy rain was hindering efforts to pretreat roads in advance of the anticipated snowfall.
"This is a serious traffic hazard and challenge," O'Malley said during a briefing shortly after 4:30 p.m. at the Statewide Operations Center in Hanover.
"If you don't have to travel tonight, you shouldn't travel," O'Malley said.
As the storm collided with the early-evening commute at the Forest Glen Metro station in Silver Spring, workers shoveled snow from the sidewalks and stairs and ran plows back and forth across the parking lot. It was a losing battle, given the rate of accumulation.
Every few minutes, a crowd schlepped up the station's slick pedestrian tunnel and pushed into the mouth of the storm. But not Enrique Lopezlira; he stopped at the top of the tunnel to take a photo of the whitened sky with his phone. He looked delighted.
"This is my first winter in D.C.," he said. "We're from Arizona, so we're not used to this." The photo, he said, was going on his Facebook page, "for all my people in Phoenix who are enjoying 75 degrees today."
Lopezlira, an economics professor at Howard University, prepared a little bit for the snow, buying a shovel and a bag of salt for his driveway. But hadn't reflexively rushed to the store to load up on bread, milk and toilet paper; they just don't do that sort of thing in the desert.
"Oh," he shrugged. "I hope we have enough."
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