Roads slowly clearing after weekend blizzard

WASHINGTON — Getting around the D.C. region is posing to be a challenge on the Monday after a weekend blizzard dumped up to 30 inches of snow, but area officials say they’re making steady progress.

Three major changes to the area’s roads went into effect Monday:

  • The northbound George Washington Parkway is closed between Spout Run Parkway and Va. 123 until 3 p.m. Monday for snow removal;
  • On Rock Creek Parkway, the reversible lane changes are canceled for Monday,
  • And northbound Waterside Drive between Massachusetts Avenue and Rock Creek Parkway is closed until Saturday.

BOB RAGER, OF THE MARYLAND STATE HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION, which covers the numbered routes in the state, told WTOP at about 10 a.m. that “I dare say we’re in really good shape in terms of lane-clearing,” although some lanes, as well as ramps and merge lanes, remain snowy and icy.

Crews still have a “couple of days left” before things return to something resembling normal, Rager says — certainly Tuesday and Wednesday will still see long hours spent clearing roads and lanes, and it’s “hard to tell for sure” whether work will continue into Thursday.

He says crews are catching a break on the larger state routes, since they can plow snow to the side, which helps keep it from melting and flowing back into the middle of the road.”

The key, Rager said: “Don’t assume it’s going to be clear everywhere you go.”

Lots of highways and main routes can be clear, but a lane can quickly disappear on you, and icy conditions can suddenly pop up.

The weekend closures of Interstates 270 and 70 were a big help, Rager says.

“I don’t think that’s something we want to make a habit of,” he admits with a laugh.

“It helps to have everybody off the road to the extent possible.” A less-crowded Monday-morning rush hour also helped.

ROADS IN THE DISTRICT are slowly coming back to life, though officials warn against parking in snow emergency zones.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Monday morning.

The District has more than 4,400 miles of roadways, she added, “and we are making our way through all of it.”

She cautioned, however, “This will take a long time to clean up.”

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Christopher Geldart says that the D.C. government will be asking for federal assistance.

“We’re all digging out incrementally.”

After the roads are clear, Geldart said, the next step is the removal of snow piles.

“Our goal is not to have mountains of snow for weeks. We have a lot of snow that we are going to be moving … That process will likely to be into next week,” Geldart said.

IN VIRGINIA, spokeswoman Ellen Kamilakis of the Department of Transportation told WTOP Monday morning that the agency is “still making progress” clearing the roads,

“We’re utilizing every resource we can; it’s just a matter of time at this point.”

The interstates are in “pretty good shape,” Kamilakis, said, though she added, like Rager, that road conditions can change very quickly. She still recommends that people not go out on the roads, in order to make more room for trucks.

“We haven’t forgotten anybody,” she says.

She says she understands that that can ring hollow for someone whose street hasn’t been plowed yet but advises against trying to get out on your own. People are trying to get out of their neighborhoods and getting stuck, she says, and that gets in the way of snowplows, slowing down the clearing for everyone.

If you think you’ve been overlooked, she says, use the snowplow tracker system or drop them a line on Twitter at @VaDOT.

“We’re aware of what everyone is saying,” Kamilakis says.

“We know you’re frustrated; we know you’ve got cabin fever. There’s only so much on Netflix — we get it.”

In Virginia, VDOT provides a snow plow tracker system to give updates on road conditions. Some counties in Maryland offer similar websites, and in the District, the Snow Response Reporting System is a way to look at live road conditions.

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