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Travel forecast iffy for New Year's Eve

The Capital Weather Gang is looking at a potential mix of rain and snow for Thursday, New Year's Eve. It's not just the nighttime celebrations that could be affected. This also will be a plain-old early getaway day for lots of people looking forward to a three-day weekend.

The District's transportation and public works crews are preparing to deal with the potential for a wintry mix early Thursday morning. (Notice how many hedges I built into that forecast, and you'll want to be on the lookout for weather and travel updates.)

The District Snow Team -- the departments of transportation and public works -- are planning now for a full deployment from 3 a.m. Thursday through early Thursday afternoon, when they think temperatures could rise above freezing and any snow or ice would change to rain.

That means they will be ready to deploy their anti-icing units, pre-treating bridges and overpasses preparing to send out all their equipment to remove any snow and ice that falls.

The travel problems may not end with rising afternoon temperatures. Refreezing could occur later Thursday and on Friday when the temperature again drops.

The Department of Public Works suspended leaf collections so the crews who would normally do that could prepare the trucks for storm duty.

Who knows what's really going to happen -- as I said before the blizzard hit -- but the District government offered some good suggestions on personal prep that would apply across the region:
-- Transit is better than driving in a storm. (Though I'd add that bus service can be affected dramatically by a little ice or snow on some routes.)
-- Have a designated driver or the telephone number of a taxicab company to ensure a safe celebration. (And remember the SoberRide service that guarantees adults a free ride home (up to a $50 cab fare value) if they've celebrated too much New Year's Eve. The SoberRide number is: 800-200-TAXI.)
-- Listen and look for weather updates.
-- Driving on ice is significantly different than driving on snow. Even a four-wheel drive SUV does not perform well in ice.
-- Don't speed, and keep your distance from other vehicles. (Especially the anti-icing and de-icing equipment.)
-- Road conditions can change quickly. Black ice -- that real thin, clear layer of road ice that's tough to see -- can give drivers a false sense of security until they start to skid.
-- Speaking of changing conditions, remember that bridges and overpasses will freeze before the roadways.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 30, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Getaway , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, New Year's Eve, travel tips  
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