Commuters Skid into Season's First Snowfall; Widespread Traffic Accidents, Delays Reported as Flakes Arrive on Time for Morning Rush Hour
Byline: Sean Coit, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The first major snowfall of the season yesterday resulted in widespread traffic accidents, commuter delays and school closings.
The traffic problems were most severe during the morning commute.
More than 50 accidents were reported in Fairfax County alone. On Interstate 270, a thin layer of snow was compressed into ice that caused accidents and turned a typical 30-minute trip from Montgomery County to the District into a two-hour commute. Accidents and major backups and delays also were reported on the Capital Beltway.
The Maryland State Highway Administration relied on forecasts that said the snow would start hitting the ground at about 9 a.m., spokesman Chuck Gischlar said, but it began accumulating much earlier in some areas.
"Snow fell right in the heart of the rush hour," he said, and salt trucks were caught in the congestion.
Mark E. Brady, spokesman for the Prince George's County fire department, reported 170 emergency calls during the snowfall, about four times the typical number.
He said most were from the northern half of the county, including on the John Hanson Highway, or Route 50.
A motorist sustained critical injuries when a vehicle skidded into a crash scene on Greencastle Road, just off Old Gunpowder Road, in Beltsville. A man in his 20s who was pinned between two vehicles was taken to a trauma center, Mr. Brady said.
At about 7:50 p.m., a van carrying 10 passengers, most of them disabled, rolled onto its side in the 13400 block of 11th Street in Bowie. Six of the passengers were taken to a hospital, but their injuries were not considered serious.
The snow advisory was scheduled to end by 8 p.m., but officials said temperatures were not expected to get above the high 20s by the morning commute today and could result in more problems.
Subfreezing temperatures yesterday turned the snow into ice on bridges and overpasses. The Maryland Transportation Authority closed one lane of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
D.C. crews began treating roads Tuesday night and were to continue into today.
"All in all, we fared very well," said D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Erik Linden.
Mr. Linden said road crews used a mixture of salt and water but planned to experiment this winter by adding beet juice to the brine. The biodegradable substance, already used in the Midwest, adheres to asphalt in lower temperatures. It will not stain tires, officials said.
Chris Strong, from the National Weather Service, said the cold temperatures yesterday compounded traffic problems by helping snow stick to road surfaces. …