Icy roads, school delays make for ‘crapshoot’ of a commute

The slushy, slick conditions caused several traffic snarls Wednesday morning. With school delays expiring by midmorning and more drivers hitting the roads, drivers should be prepared for an extended morning rush hour with less predictable delays.

WASHINGTON — As snow flurries across the D.C. region tapered off, drivers hitting the roads faced some messy, slick commutes Wednesday morning.

All told, most areas in the immediate D.C. area saw only a dusting to an inch of snow. But the precipitation coupled with bitterly cold temperatures led to some “deceptively slippery” roads, Storm Team 4 meteorologist Matt Ritter said. The area was under a Winter Weather Advisory until 9 a.m.

The slushy, slick conditions caused several traffic snarls in Maryland, where state police said troopers had responded to 300 calls for service shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday.

In Virginia, state police there had responded to 268 crashes since the overnight hours, with most involving only damage to vehicles. As of about 1:30 p.m., troopers were responding to 41 crashes.

The light coating of snow also caused a number of major school systems in the D.C. area to close or operate under a two-hour delay. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland both opted to close Wednesday. Other schools systems opened late. The federal government opened on time.

With the delays expiring by midmorning and more drivers hitting the roads, WTOP traffic reporter Jack Taylor cautioned drivers to be prepared for an extended morning rush hour with less predictable delays.

Overall, the WTOP traffic center was observing lighter-than-normal traffic coupled with “against-the-grain” type delays, Taylor said: “It’s basically a crapshoot.”

Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman with the Maryland State Highway Administration, told WTOP snow crews would remain out on the roads throughout Wednesday afternoon to patrol for potential icy patches.

Even though drivers may encounter what they think are only wet roads, Gischlar urged caution.

“In these types of storms, you get people that get overconfident because they see just what appears to be wet pavement and they drive the speeds up and then they end up spinning out, in a ditch, or just … disabled on the roadway,” he said. “And that emphasizes our point to slow down. Speed limits are set for dry conditions; these aren’t dry conditions or ideal. So, slow down, give yourself plenty of time.”


Snow on the grass and sidewalks in Baltimore. (Courtesy Limbani Mankhusu)

Quick Links:

Closings and Delays

Several large school systems including Montgomery County and Prince George’s County opted to close because of icy conditions that would include school sidewalks. Other school systems are operating on a two-hour delay.

Find the latest on any closings and delays on WTOP’s Closings and Delays page.

The federal government opened on time Wednesday, the Office of Personnel Management said.

The National Zoo opened late, at 10 a.m.


Light snow and flurries mostly ended before noon. According to the National Weather Service, snow totals at local airports are 0.3 inches at Dulles, 0.4 inches at Reagan and 1.0 inch at BWI.

There are no more snow chances for the next 10 days, said Storm Team 4 meteorologist Chuck Bell.

A gusty northwest wind will blow colder and drier air into the area Wednesday afternoon. Winds will be in the 20 mph range; highs will stay around 30, but wind chills will be in the teens.

Visibility will be low but treated roads will mostly be wet, said Storm Team 4 meteorologist Sheena Parveen. Side roads and sidewalks may be slick, however.

Meanwhile, the Maryland-National Capital Park Police and Montgomery Parks reminded people to stay off icy lakes, ponds and streams. “Even if a pond or stream appears to be frozen solid, there can be moving water below that is not visible. That moving water thins the ice. Walking, fishing and any activity on frozen bodies of water are dangerous,” said Nicole Adams, of the Park Police.

The Latest Forecast:

Wednesday: Light snow ending. Breezy and cold. Highs near 30, wind chills in the teens.

Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Breezy. Lows between 10 and 20 with wind chills below 10.

Thursday: Mostly sunny. Light breeze with highs around 40.

Friday: Sunny and milder. Highs around 50.

The next chance for rain will arrive late Monday and continue on into Tuesday.

Travel and Transportation

Inclement weather impacted more than just the roads Wednesday morning. Dozens of flights coming into and out of area airports were canceled earlier in the morning. Most of the affected flights are to or from areas being hit harder by snow than the D.C. area.

Check FlightAware for the latest updates.


Visit our traffic page for the latest updates, follow us on Twitter @WTOPtraffic, and listen to live traffic reports every 10 minutes on 103.5 FM or via our online stream.

Closings and Delays
WTOP’s Weather Center
WTOP Traffic Center

WTOP’s Jack Moore, Rick Massimo and Reem Nadeem contributed to this report.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2018 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.