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Perfectly Awful Conditions

This storm fit an unfortunate pattern: Just as rush hour is beginning, the forecast turns out to be slightly off, road conditions take a turn for the worse and the highway crews trying to treat the streets and highways are out in the same traffic as the rest of us.

In early December, a similar pattern left many drivers stuck during the morning rush when the first light snow of the season landed. But that was small stuff compared the the regional shutdown that occurred in January 2000. Four-tenths of an inch of snow starting as the afternoon rush was beginning halted traffic for hours. The light snow -- not much but more than the flurries forecasters had predicted -- glazed the chilled roadways before many of the highway crews could get in position to treat them. Drivers talked about five-hour trips up 16th Street NW.

Tuesday's afternoon glazing created similar nightmares for drivers all across the region, but the Springfield Interchange,with all its ramps and bridges suspectible to freezing, was a focal point. Drivers who commute down I-395 were caught for hours. Here's part of one letter about it.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am sure you will get thousands of letters and complaints about the traffic snarl yesterday, Feb. 12, at the evening rush.

My wife picked up "slugs" at the Pentagon at 3:45 p.m.; at about 4 p.m. she called me to tell me she had come to a complete stop past Edsal Road in HOV; she remained stopped until approximately 7:40 p.m., even though the main lanes were opened to traffic much earlier. Fortunately for her, she had a full tank of gas, an empty bladder, and had voted in the morning.

Based on my wife's phone call, I took the George Washington Parkway through Alexandria , leaving my office in Ballston at 4:30 and reaching the polling place in Lake Ridge at 6:55 p.m., just in time to vote.
Dave Wolf
Lake Ridge

Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, told The Post yesterday that 278 trucks were out salting major roads in the Washington suburbs. But the storm's speed and amount of the precipitation were a surprise, she said. "Things just went to hell in a handbasket with the roads," Morris told The Post. "It started sleeting over and icing very quickly."

Same thing everywhere: Just about any place in the Washington region where we have a ramp or a bridge, drivers got stuck. Police temporarily shut many roads but others were effectively closed down by stalled traffic.

Does this sound like your Tuesday? (Some readers also have commented on a previous blog entry.) Who are you blaming? Is there anything drivers can do to help themselves under such conditions?

[In addition to commenting here, if some of you feel like sharing your commuting adventures from yesterday afternoon with Post reporter Michael Laris, he's working on a story for tomorrow's paper. You can reach him at larism@washpost.com. For the newspaper story, Michael will be looking to quote some people and give the details of where they started from, what they encountered and how long it took to reach home.]


By Robert Thomson  |  February 13, 2008; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  Weather  
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