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Posted at 11:14 AM ET, 01/27/2011

What it's like out there

By Luke Rosiak

Area jurisdictions have plows on the ground, and the Washington Post has eyes on area roads large and small. Here you'll find a running stream of updates on the driveability or disasters affecting roads large and small.

In Fairfax, more than 50 major intersections had no working traffic lights, including lights in the Seven Corners area and along the Fairfax County Parkway in the Centreville and Franconia areas. Fairfax police were regularly updating a list of dark intersections. If power returns slowly, police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said, "It could be a few days of drivers having to be considerate of other drivers." She also advised drivers to be mindful of pedestrians who are forced to walk in roadways because of snow-covered sidewalks.

Signals are dark on St. Barnabas at the Beltway and at Wheeler Rd. near Oxon Hill.

In Northwest, traffic lights are out at River Road and Western Ave. and Nebraska and Brandywine.

In Bethesda and Rockville, traffic lights are out at Tuckerman between Old Georgetown and Strathmore Lane, with no police managing intersections, even Route 355.

A wire is down at Bauer Drive in Rockville between Norbeck Rd. and Nadine Rd.

The northbound GW Parkway is free of abandoned cars and moving along.

Prince George's expects to make about two-thirds of its secondary roads passable by about noon today, said public works spokeswoman Susan Hubbard. Primary roads were passable by about 5 a.m., she said. "Our problems have been people abandoning cars, and downed wires and downed trees," she said.

The county has 5,000 'lane miles" on about 1,800 miles of road. The biggest challenges so far has been technical, Hubbard said, with glitches occurring in public works department computers and telephones, needed to track staff, determine what trucks are where, how much salt has been used, and other critical pieces of information needed to keep the system running smoothly. Despite those challenges, most of the roads are in relatively good shape, she said. On Wednesday, anticipating the storm, the county had about 60 trucks out during the day salting, and then plowing once the snow hit around 4 p.m. Since then, there have been 178 county vehicles out clearing the roads and about 101 contractors' vehicles.

Montgomery County spokeswoman Esther Bowring said plows finished all emergency routes as of 9:30 a.m. and were starting on primary and secondary roads. She said she didn't know when they would reach most neighborhood streets but said the county and Pepco are working together to get plows first to neighborhoods where Pepco trucks need to get in to restore power.

Because county plows were stuck in the same gridlock as commuters Wednesday evening, she said, crews that usually work throughout a storm couldn't begin their work in earnest until after the snow stopped and traffic lightened up Wednesday night. That delay caused snow and ice to bond to the pavement, she said, making the job more difficult and slow-going Thursday morning.

"We'll go over and over the secondary roads to clear them curb to curb and only then will we move into the neighborhoods," Bowring said.

Fire trucks that need to get into neighborhoods with snowy roads will be accompanied by snow plows to clear the way, she said.

But many roads were free and clear--especially as many residents were too afraid to venture out.

First it was a massive water main, then came ice, rain and snow making I-495 at Central Avenue one of the most problem plagued trips along the Capital Beltway. But as of 1 pm traffic was light along the inner loop and the emergency side median were all clear. From New Carrollton to Largo side streets had been plowed and students were arriving for afternoon classes at Prince Georges Community College.

By Luke Rosiak  | January 27, 2011; 11:14 AM ET
Categories:  District, Driving, Maryland, Montgomery County, Virginia, Weather  
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