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Black ice this morning's worry

The legion of snow plows seemed to have delivered on the promise to have the region's major roadways open 36 hours after the the blizzard ended Wednesday, but as the District prepared for government offices to reopen Friday morning the salt trucks were attacking black ice that formed over night.

At 6:22 a.m. a car on Connecticut Avenue at Van Ness Street was lucky to have the roadway to itself as it spun in a wide arc on ice and came to rest facing backward against the curb. By the time the driver moved on traffic had begun to flow in behind.

With the temperture in 20s after relative warmth and salting caused snow to melt on Thursday, patches of black ice remained despite overnight salting.

At New York Avenue and 9th street a dump truck rolled by, spreading more salt.

The District's effort to focus on in-bound lanes after the federal government announced it would open for the first time this week, albeit two hours late, was evident.

Three in-bound lanes were clear on New York Avenue at North Capitol Street. Three lanes of traffic moved in across the Key Bridge. K Street at 19th was passable but still snowy, but four blocks away the pavement where it intersects with 15th was clear but slick.

Many of the snow mountains which obstructed view at some intersections yesterday had been scooped up and hauled away to dumping areas behind D.C. General Hospital and off M street, SE.

Elsewhere, traffic was moving Beltway relatively smoothly as the first rush hour in a week picked up. All lanes in most areas were clear and appeared dry. I-66 at Spout Run saw traffic volume building and flowing on open lanes with the shoulders cleared of snow.

Light snow was falling in West Virginia, and there was a chance some of it might arrive here before Friday was over.

By Ashley Halsey  |  February 12, 2010; 6:39 AM ET
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Next: Delays as drivers return to roads


Its time we get past this whole "black ice" misnomer. I know, I know, a thin layer of ice on asphalt appears black... because asphalt is black and the ice is transparent. Is it grey ice when on cement, or red ice when on brick? And is it helpful to say "watch out for the BLACK ice" on the entirely black surface? Ice has characteristics more than its apparent color, like its sheen or luster, that when described to the motorist, will actually help them avoid patches of it. Maybe I read too far into it, but what is our deal with constantly using "black" as a label for bad things? The most ominous quality of this kind of ice is that we can't see it easily, not that it is black at all!

Posted by: smart-aleck | February 12, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Black ice is just a term for ice that isn't visible on the roadway. This is a laughable comment. Sorry, but I'm from Maine and there, we get the concept of black ice. Its dangerous and you can't always see it. I wonder, do you ponder the term black eye as well?

Posted by: FinancialWatchdog | February 12, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

"Maybe I read too far into it, but what is our deal with constantly using "black" as a label for bad things?"

Good god, get over yourself already.

Posted by: JRandomReader | February 12, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

In the great northwet er uh northwest "black ice" is a common occurrence in the winter - more than snow. More deadly than snow. Just a term for the ice on the road you cannot see-regardless of the color of the road. We here know what it is and have a mortal fear of it.

Posted by: julina | February 12, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

How about "ice of color"? It's black, as in not seen at night. Wall Street is more progressive. When a firm is "in the black," that is a good thing (whereas "in the red . . ."). There's still a lot of racism in the country, but black ice is not an example.

Posted by: Sutter | February 12, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

It's called "black ice" because it's transparent and the black road surface below it shows through.

Nothing racist or even racial about the term. Go ahead and call it red ice for bricks or gray ice for sidewalks if it makes you feel superior to the rest of us. We'll conceal our laughter behind our gloves.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 12, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

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