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How snowstorm may affect D.C. area drivers

[Airports; Amtrak cancellations; D.C. snow emergency; MARC and MTA; Metrorail and Metrobus; Plowing plans; Snow removal; VRE]

Here are some things that might help your travel planning for Friday and Saturday, based on the Capital Weather Gang's forecast.

Commuters have been weather-lucky so far this winter. The snow either fell on the weekend or overnight, or both. This forecast is different. The Friday weather in which you drive to work is unlikely to be the weather in which you drive home. Have a plan for the afternoon trip and anticipate extensive delays.

A storm that starts at midday on a workday usually increases the difficulties for road crews. Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation: "The challenge for our crews will be making any headway during the afternoon rush hour [Friday]. We are pre-treating all the usual locations today but we don't yet know when the heavy stuff will start falling, so tomorrow afternoon could be a tough commute home."

There's a chance in some areas sleet will mix with the snow. That increases the likelihood that drivers will encounter a variety of conditions on one trip. Good reason to keep the speed down even when things seem to be going fine.

Remember the warnings about bridges and overpasses freezing first and use extra caution on ramps. This is especially true at the beginning of a storm, notes David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. Bridge and ramps are typically three to four degrees colder than road surfaces that are not elevated.

Advice to motorists from Morris of VDOT:
Do your errands Thursday night and if possible, telework on Friday. Consider transit. Staying off the road will be the overarching message all weekend. Also, for those who live in subdivisions, park in your driveway. If residents can park on one side of the street that really helps the crews.

Advice to motorists from Buck at MSHA:
During the storm, crews can do the best job when there is little to no traffic on the roads. We ask that you please plan ahead, get where you are going and stay and avoid driving during the storm.

Drivers should expect plow trains on the interstates. Do not attempt to pass a plow train. Please stay a safe distance behind the plows and allow them the space to do their work.

Motorists should be sure to have a winter survival kit in their vehicles. This should include a blanket, flares, charged cell phone, flashlight and batteries, bottled water, protein bars/snacks and kitty litter for traction. (Dr. G: And keep it inside the passenger area, where you can get at it in an emergency. Don't store it away from you in the trunk.)


By Robert Thomson  |  February 4, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Driving , Metro , Weather , Weekend Work , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm, tips for travelers  
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Next: Tips for D.C. area transit users facing snow storm

Comments

Has anyone heard anything about how quickly they expect the snow to accumulate on Friday? I have Caps tickets and am trying to decide whether to drive or take the Metro. I usually drive and am inclined to do that again, conditions notwithstanding, under the theory that I'd rather have a long drive home than risk getting stranded if the Metro stops running above-ground.

I'm kind of hoping Sunday's game against Pittsburgh gets postponed due to the weather. I'd walk the three miles to the nearest Metro stop if the trains are running and the roads aren't plowed, but I don't much like the idea because no doubt it would mean walking in the street on Van Dorn and that seems like a Bad Idea.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: 1995hoo, I don't offer this with any recommendation on the drive/transit issue, but here's what the Capital Weather Gang is saying about snow rates:
Accumulations may be around 2-4" by dusk Friday as temperatures remain around freezing.
Snow will be moderate to heavy for at least the first half of Friday night with 1 to 2 inch accumulations per hour likely at times.
By Saturday morning, accumulations may be in the neighborhood of 9 to 12".

Posted by: Dr_Gridlock | February 4, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

1995hoo, what about driving to one of the Orange Line stations that is underground (like Ballston or Court House) and parking in a garage and riding in from there. This may only be helpful if the drive home from the orange line would be much shorter than just driving home from the city, and you still would have to pay the extra for parking. Seems like driving the least distance would be your best bet though. Less of a chance of getting stuck in the snow or getting in an accident.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | February 4, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dr. Gridlock. I appreciate it. That info is quite helpful given that the puck-drop time is already set and given that it's relatively easy to know when a game will end even if it goes to overtime or a shootout. I suppose the key thing is that if one DOES drive, tomorrow will be a good day to suck it up and pay the extra money to park in one of the underground garages. They may cost more and it may take forever to get out sometimes, but not having to scrape/clean off the car is always nice.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

UMDTerpsGirl, thanks, but it's not all that much difference distance-wise in the end between Ballston and downtown. I did consider the idea of parking at the garage for the Ballston Common shopping mall and taking the covered walkway to the subway stop, but I found myself thinking if I drive that far I'd be better off going downtown because from downtown you're on I-395 almost immediately, via a tunnel, and I expect the Interstates will be cleared more promptly than some of the other streets. If I take the Metro I'm thinking I'd park at Franconia-Springfield. That stop and Huntington are about equidistant from my house, but the drive from Springfield is flatter and on wider roads than the drive from Huntington. Van Dorn is closer than either but involves a very steep hill and the parking is not covered.

Thanks for the idea, though. I was definitely pondering whether there is some way to stick to the tunneled portion of the Metro system. I even thought about the idea of parking at the Anacostia Metro garage since it opens right onto I-295, but that seems like overkill.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I was out and about last Saturday during the snow. I ran into some accidents, and on surface streets, I was able to turn around. On the interstates, you are stuck, since there is no turning around, and you do not have options for turning off except at exits. So although the interstates may get cleared quicker, the heavier traffic, higher speeds, and lack of opportunities to get off could leave you stuck. On WTOP, all of the "traffic at a standstill" locations were on the interstates.

That being said, I don't know that DC gives any special priority to interstates over other Snow Emergency Routes. I believe all Snow Emergency Routes are given the same priority. But DC has done a great job keeping us plowed thus far this year, I must say.

Posted by: thetan | February 4, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

My comment about the Interstates being cleared first was intended more as a comment on Virginia than on DC, actually. I have to say that I've been torn on what the best route is in the snow. I-395 likely has the most traffic and thus might be clearer, but it also has that hill between Seminary and Landmark. The GW Parkway through Old Town is nice and flat, but might not be as clear. Tough call to make. From Ballston the most direct route for me is Glebe Road to I-395, but Glebe is a fairly narrow street that may not be the best option in heavy snow.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Well one thing I can say is that last Saturday, GW Parkway was entirely blocked NB at 123, because cars couldn't get up that hill. That hill is nothing compared to the one on 395.

Posted by: thetan | February 5, 2010 1:01 AM | Report abuse

My gut is telling me that Friday night's game will be the first Caps home game this season for which I am not at the arena. I'm still hopeful that my gut might be wrong, though.

The notion of just shelling out the $152 to stay at the Hotel Monaco after the game crossed my mind, but that just seems like a waste of money so close to home.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 5, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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