Rush hour is calm before the storm
As an expected light evening rush hour begins, officials across the Washington region are urging motorists and pedestrians to stay off the streets tonight.
Serious traffic problems have not materialized yet because many people paid heed to the warnings and stayed home today. The traffic jams that happened tended to be around grocery stores and hardware stores, where people searched
In the heart of downtown, streets remained clear but wet as a light snow persisted through the afternoon. The snow wasn't sticking yet. In the suburbs, accumulations were building but streets were still in good shape as crews from area departments of transportation managed to keep up with the snowfall.
There were some reports of accidents. Between 12:01 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, Virginia State Police statewide had responded to 261 traffic crashes, including a fatal crash in Wythe County that killed two men who had stopped to help people injured in a previous accident.
The Fairfax Division had responded to nine traffic crashes and 35 disabled vehicles in that timeframe.
State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said troopers also have responded to 240 disabled vehicles across the state, with most crashes handled by the Salem and Wytheville Divisions.
However, the intense challenge will come later. According to an e-mail sent to the Capital Weather Gang from the National Weather Service, "travel conditions across the region will be extremely dangerous and life threatening."
Neil Pedersen, administrator of the Maryland State Highway Administration, says snow could fall at 2 inches an hour this evening and overnight.
The District declared a snow emergency, ticketing cars parked on emergency routes and changing traffic signals to handle the early evening rush hour.
Officials everywhere urged people to hunker down at home and stay off the roads.
"We are going to be right up against the most snow this city has ever seen," said D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).
"It's not safe for anyone to be out on the roads or sidewalks at that point," said Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation.
-- Associated Press, Mary Pat Flaherty and Ashley Halsey III
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