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Storm Easing Up

Your afternoon commute should be better than this morning's trip. The weather service has canceled the winter storm warning and travel conditions have improved, especially within the Capital Beltway, as the morning's icy mix changed to mostly rain and diminished.

soc.jpg Maryland monitors winter highway conditions from its State Operations Center near BWI. (Thomson - file)

But temperatures remain around freezing, and you still may encounter slick spots.

VDOT, still smarting from the Feb. 12 ice storm delays at the Springfield Interchange, says it isn't taking any chances on the road conditions. Crews have treated commuter lots and will continue to treat highway ramps and bridges. They also are sanding hills, curves and trouble spots in subdivisions.

Highway crews across the region had plenty of warning about the arrival of this storm, so all jurisdictions mobilized overnight and were out treating the roads, even neighborhood streets that usually are the last in line.

Traffic was lighter than normal, because so many schools are closed and the federal government has its unscheduled leave policy in effect. (See our closings page.)

Still, be extra careful this afternoon in areas with ramps and bridges, especially in the Springfield Interchange, which has 50 of them. Plenty of accidents were reported across the region this morning, including a multi-car collision that temporarily shut the ramp from southbound I-270 to I-370. You will find updates on road conditions on our Traffic page. Look for reports from our Capital Weather Gang, updating the weather.

David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, noted that people were heeding all the advice to stay off the roads today, and that the roads themselves were now mainly just wet. Still, he urged everyone to be cautious and said there are accidents every day on the interstates, whatever the weather.

From the Maryland Transit Administration: All commuter buses will operate on a normal schedule this afternoon and evening.

Check Metro's home page for the latest rail line conditions.

I got this early morning e-mail from a commuter who parks at the Metro lot at Greenbelt Station:

I arrived at the Greenbelt Metro Station at 5:30 a.m. While the road from the Beltway's inner loop was treated, the parking lot was not. The areas where the cars park has never been treated so it was already icy when I stepped out of my car. The driving lanes between the parking areas had icy patches.

When I entered the station, I saw one worker starting a small vehicle that was on the scale of something that would be used to spread salt on sidewalks. We pay increased parking rates yet still have to risk falling on ice in the untreated parking lot.

The areas marked off for parking could have been treated overnight, but they were not, so drivers exiting their cars, step on very slippery ice as they are trying to get traction on the soles of their shoes as they move from a seated position inside their cars to a standing position between their car and the one parked next to them. If the icing conditions persist into the times when people are trying to leave the lot, they are going to have very slippery surfaces around their cars which means it will be very hard to get enough traction to stand while trying to chip ice from their vehicles.
Tom Stiyer
Beltsville

All the transportation departments offer good advice for travelers. Here are some tips from the District Department of Transportation:

-- Pedestrians can take longer to cross intersections. Please remain alert, do not drive distracted and be aware of surrounding conditions including other motorists and pedestrians.
-- District residents and businesses need to clear their sidewalks, sidewalk entrances, nearby catch basin openings, and the area surrounding hydrants of snow, sleet and ice to prevent injury to pedestrians.
-- Please take Metro as an alternative to driving
-- Remember that driving on ice is significantly different than driving on snow. Even a 4-wheel drive SUV does not perform well in ice and additional safety measures should be followed.
-- Be aware of road conditions, particularly black ice which can be deceptive in its appearance giving the driver a false sense of security on the road.
-- Keep a safe distance from emergency and snow vehicles. Stay behind plow vehicles at least 25 feet and do not attempt to pass them.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 22, 2008; 1:50 PM ET
Categories:  Weather  
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