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D.C. forecast: some icy roads tonight and Thursday night

The Capital Weather Gang warns that we may be in for two rounds of icing on the roads late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. The region's transportation departments are getting ready, based on their own analysis of the potential.

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced that its anti-icing equipment will be out in advance of both weather systems. While little to no accumulation is expected, VDOT said, roads could become slick with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, VDOT crews will have pre-treated trouble spots on interstates 66, 95, 395, and 495 -- including bridges and ramps prone to freezing such as the Springfield interchange, I-66 at Route 29 in Gainesville and the Capital Beltway interchange at Route 1 -- with liquid magnesium chloride.

Other major roads, such as the Fairfax County Parkway and Routes 1, 7, 28, 29, 50 and 123, are being pre-treated with salt brine.

By 8 p.m., VDOT said, 120 trucks will begin patrolling roads throughout Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, monitoring conditions and treating areas that may freeze overnight. By noon Thursday, VDOT will have 350 trucks treating roads throughout Northern Virginia.

All this has been standard procedure at VDOT for two winters now. The plan was developed in the wake of the 2008 ice storm that shut the Springfield Interchange. The District Department of Transportation and the Maryland State Highway Administration also monitor the forecast and make similar preparations, emphasizing the use of anti-icing equipment, based on what their readings tell them. [See my Commuter page preview of how they handle it.]

DDOT spokeswoman Karyn LeBlanc said early this afternoon that the department was finalizing its deployment plans and probably would have pre-treatment start later this afternoon and continuing early Thursday morning. A larger deployment would occur Thursday evening -- for the bigger of the two weather systems -- to reflect concern about freezing temperatures for the Friday morning rush hour.

Maryland's State Highway Administration isn't expecting trouble out of tonight's weather forecast for the state, and on Thursday, foresees a chance of rain after 1 p.m. with a high of 40. There's no point pre-treating in front of a rain storm, since the chemicals would wash away before any ice arrived, said SHA spokesman David Buck. So as of mid-afternoon Wednesday, there weren't plans to anti-ice the roads.

[Watch for updates as preparations develop.]

By Robert Thomson  |  January 20, 2010; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  Weather  | Tags: DC traffic, Dr. Gridlock, VDOT  
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