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Seeking Commuter Advice on Storms

Drivers, with the snow and ice storm fresh in your minds, what are the chronic trouble spots that people newer to the area should be warned about? I'd like to compile traveler suggestions into a warning list we can use in advance of future storms.

Seems to me there might be two categories on this:

-- Places that are normally just fine but turn nasty during very bad weather. That might be a highway overpass or ramp that tends to freeze earlier than the rest of a roadway, or a dip in the road where water tends to collect and freeze.
-- Places that are normally bad for traffic and should flat out be avoided during a storm. This might be a crowded spot on your everyday commute where many drivers are trying to change lanes, and one mistake can create a dangerous situation or at least a long-lasting jam.

For those of you who know about places like that on your commutes, what's the practical solution? Staying home is always nice, but if you can't do that, can you switch from driving to transit, or take a different route to work, or head for a different office?

By Robert Thomson  |  February 15, 2007; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  Weather  
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"Places that are normally bad for traffic and should flat out be avoided during a storm."

Old Centreville Road between Ordway and New Braddock Road. It's considered a residential road by VDOT because one sign says Old Centreville Drive. It does not get plowed (though Ordway does). With people digging their cars out and too many who drive it not speaking English (shovel out your car, you'll hear plenty of Spanish bellowed at you by the passing drivers) and not knowing how to drive on ice or snow, it's a major catastrophie waiting to happen.

Posted by: Centreville, Va. | February 15, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

My Winter Weather Commuting Tip:

If you are considering taking MARC to avoid driving, note that any announced delays are normally a fraction of what you will actually experience. Furthermore, bundle up, because for some reason MARC trains tend to lose their heating and/or power during bad weather.

Posted by: Zizzy | February 15, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Winter Weather Commuting Tip

I have some short cuts and kadidles that I use to get around traffic hot spots, but when the roads are bad, I get on a main road and stick to it as long as I can; I don't want to be stuck or sliding on a residential road when I can avoid it.

Posted by: Historian | February 15, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The Toll Road. Don't even try it within the first few hours of a decent storm. The plows only get one or tow lanes clear and they take their time getting the rest done.

Posted by: Ashburn | February 15, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"Places that are normally bad for traffic and should flat out be avoided during a storm."

Porter Street NW between Connecticut Ave and Rock Creek Parkway is incredibly steep, invariably poorly plowed, and always creates problems for drivers and pedestrians alike. Solution: stick to the main roads, and avoid side streets. You'll sit in traffic, but you won't end up being towed!

Posted by: cleveland parker | February 15, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Unless you live within a short walking distance of a metro station, you may be out of luck if you really need to get into work on a bad weather day. Buses may not run on a reliable schedule (or at all, ala PRTC in Prince William County yesterday). No matter what VDOT, MDOT or any other dot reports on TV or the radio, road conditions WILL BE BAD (read "most likely untreated or poorly treated") unless your entire trip is on an I-95 type superhighway -- and even that will be tricky. Also, can someone please tell newscasters to stop telling us to stay home unless we "absolutely have to go out"? Our employers just don't seem to get that message!

Posted by: Can Spring Be Far Behind? | February 15, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Buy a 4X4 (even a very old one) and head out early. This plan beats both traffic and bad road conditions. It took me less time to get into work yesterday than it does on a normal day.

Posted by: amacfarl | February 15, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"Places that are normally bad for traffic and should flat out be avoided during a storm."

Northern Virginia.

Posted by: nocando | February 15, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Braddock Road East of King Street. There is a traffic light at the bottom of a long hill, and it inevitably becomes a game of bumper cars trying to stop at the light.

Posted by: Alexandria | February 15, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

To follow on what amacfarl said:

If you have 4WD, use caution. Your SUV is likely bigger, heavier and less agile than just about every other car out there. So while 4WD will help you get started in snow, it will NOT help you stop on slick snow or ice much better than a regular car. Do not assume you can blast down the highways at 80MPH.

Also, if you have a regular car, use caution when starting and stopping. Leave a lot of extra room, but remember, gunning the accelerator only causes you to spin your tires, polishing the ice and makign it that much tougher to get your car moving again. Ease onto the gas. Give yourself room to rock the car back and forth to get out of ice. And do not assume that more power means more "go," because most of the time it just causes more problems.

Posted by: DC Mike | February 16, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

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