Winter road warriors at the ready
The Capital Weather Gang says there is a chance of snow this weekend. Local transportation agencies have been preparing for that. Dr. Gridlock detailed their efforts in Sunday's Commuter page feature. If it snows, here's an abbreviated guide to finding out information on alerts and road conditions, and some tips for getting around from the good Doctor.
The Maryland Statewide Operations Center can alert travelers about changing conditions through the overhead message boards, but you can check conditions before you head out by visiting www.marylandroads.com and clicking on the CHART information center, which offers snow emergency information, traffic camera views, weather updates, maps showing average travel speeds on highways and road-closing reports. There's also a Winter Storm Hotline at 800-327-3125.
In the District of Columbia, call the Mayor's Citywide Call Center at 311 to find out whether vehicles need to be removed from Snow Emergency Routes. (To find a towed vehicle, call 202-727-5000.) Go to the District Department of Transportation's Web site, www.ddot.dc.gov, and click on "Snow Plan" to get the latest on weather and road conditions. An online application, http://snowmap.dc.gov/, allows residents to track the snowplows.
In Virginia, the 511 traveler-information service gives drivers the most up-to-date data available about weather, construction or accidents that might affect travel. Updates can be received by calling 511 from any landline or wireless phone in Virginia or by going online to www.511virginia.org to view traffic cameras, the road condition map and the road condition table-report.
Tips for winter travel
Don't crowd the plow. Snow plow operators may need to stop or move quickly to avoid a stranded vehicle. Plows moving in high winds can create a snow cloud, severely limiting visibility, and the operator may not be able to see you due to blind spots.
Before driving. Get the snow or ice off the vehicle, including the roof. Check your battery, wiper blades, tires, tire jack, antifreeze and lights. Keep the gas tank at least half-full.
Carry an emergency kit that includes a small shovel; a bag of rock salt, sand or cat litter; a scraper and brush; a flashlight with extra batteries; jumper cables; blankets; and a first-aid kit.
When driving. Don't use cruise control, allow extra room for stopping distance, turn your lights on, know the condition of your brakes and be aware that road conditions can change quickly. Stick with the main roads as long as you can rather than detouring onto secondary routes. It's the main roads that will get the most attention from plows and emergency vehicles.
In Metro. While waiting on outdoor Metrorail platforms, remember this is our first winter in which the trains are required to pull to the front of the platform, exposing more of the train -- and more of you -- to the elements. Platform paving tiles can be slippery.
December 1, 2009; 2:31 PM ET
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