After a wintry mix, beware ice on DC-area roads

WASHINGTON — After a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow fell on much of the D.C. area Monday, drivers are being advised to watch for icy conditions, especially on the smaller highways and neighborhood streets.

Bob Immler, in the WTOP Traffic Center, said that those smaller roads, which hadn’t necessarily had the benefit of aggressive de-icing treatments or pavement-warming heavy traffic, could be freezing over as night falls, temperatures hover around freezing and the road temperatures, given the frigid conditions of the past two weeks, are way below that.

As always, elevated roadways such as bridges will freeze before surface roads, Immler added.
Sidewalks, he said, could be freezing over as the night goes on, so pedestrians should watch their steps as well. A Winter Weather Advisory was in effect for most of the area until 9 p.m.

“If you have to be out driving in these conditions … you want to treat it like it’s icy,” said Dave Dildine in the Traffic Center. “You definitely want your headlights on. Give yourself extra stopping room, especially in high braking situations, like near traffic lights and places that are normally congested.”

If you find yourself behind a salt truck or a plow, Dildine said, give them even more leeway: “They need room to work — keep back 50 or 100 feet.”

“Motorists should remain cautious of potentially slick road surfaces and use safe speed,” the Maryland State Highway Administration said in a statement Monday afternoon.

Ellen Kamilakis, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, was even more blunt in her assessment: “The only strategy to driving on the ice is just not to do it,” she told WTOP.

Monday’s afternoon rush hour came early to the D.C. area, as people headed home from work and school ahead of schedule in advance of the heavy weather. Several major school systems in the area dismissed students hours early in advance of the weather. Some public school systems, including Fairfax and Loudoun County, didn’t open at all.

Warmer weather is coming, however — Tuesday’s high is predicted to be 45 degrees.

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WTOP’s William Vitka and Patrick Roth, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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