Now comes the ice: Snow gives way to wintry mix in DC area

WASHINGTON — Snow and sleet gave way to rain and freezing rain Wednesday across the D.C. area, leaving surfaces slick and increasing the risk of power outages.

Storm Team4 Meteorologist Mike Stinneford said Wednesday afternoon that freezing temperatures had been hanging on across the area. Indeed, the National Weather Service has extended the winter storm warning for the areas north and west of D.C. until 1 a.m. Thursday, as temperatures had gone up more slowly than projected.

Stinneford said just before 6 p.m. that a few pockets of snow were still falling in the southern suburbs of D.C., and that what he called the “messy mix” of sleet and freezing rain would continue, with plain rain moving south to north, and ice forming to varying degrees across the region.

Warnings and advisories

Winter storm warnings and weather advisories have been in effect for much of the area Wednesday, but some have been canceled while others have been extended.

Winter Storm Warning are in effect for areas in:

Virginia until 1 a.m.: Prince William, Fairfax, Alexandria City, Loudoun, Arlington, Rappahannock, Fauquier counties.

D.C. until 1 a.m.

Maryland until 1 a.m.: Prince George’s, Howard, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore, Caroll, Frederick counties.

Here’s what you need to know.



Roads and transit

It was all making driving difficult. WTOPs Neal Augenstein said that about 5 inches of snow fell on the Loudoun County Parkway, and ice pellets were falling in the early afternoon. Plows had gotten the main road “down to mostly pavement,” but freezing could still happen, especially on the side roads.

In Calvert County, Maryland, WTOP’s Michelle Basch said that about 2 inches of snow had turned to slush, with rain falling. Conditions on Maryland Route 4 were OK, but when she pulled over into a parking lot in Huntingtown, “I hit the brakes but didn’t stop initially.”

Storm Team4 Meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts added that up to a quarter-inch of ice could accumulate north and west of D.C., with a bit of a coating in the south and in D.C.

Temperatures will cool down a bit more before climbing slowly to the mid-30s in the evening, changing the precipitation over to “a soaking rain” that will continue to the late morning hours of Thursday, Ritter said.

Ricketts added that refreezing, normally a big fear with winter weather, shouldn’t be much of a factor this time around, as temperatures will rise overnight, hitting 40 degrees by the Thursday-morning rush hour.

Between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Maryland State Police said, they responded to 205 crashes and 138 disabled or unattended vehicles. The Fairfax County police said via Twitter that roads “are worse than they look.”

Charlie Gischlar, with the Maryland State Highway Administration, said the combination of heavy ice on tree limbs and saturated ground could lead to falling trees and limbs. “We’re kind of expecting that to come later,” he said, adding that tree contractors are on call.

For those and other reasons, Gischlar said, power outages are possible in the afternoon, and they could take out traffic signals. If you see such an intersection, “treat that as a four-way stop,” he said.

A lot of people are staying off the roads, which is helping the clearing process. If you are out, “drive below the speed limit and give yourself plenty of time,” Gischlar said.

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Despite being treated before the snow’s arrival, some roads are covered in snow, some are slushy and some are slick, according to WTOP’s Traffic Center.

On the George Washington Parkway south of Alexandria, WTOP’s Kristi King said the sound of sleet on her windshield was like “hamburgers frying on the grill.” The parkway was plowed, but already slushy.

In Prince William County, an inch of snow had accumulated in a short period of time. U.S. Route 29 was slushy as snow continued to fall, making changing lanes slippery, reported WTOP’s Neal Augenstein.

All roads in Warrenton were snow-covered, reported Warrenton’s Police Department. Although crews were working to clear and treat the roads, “lasting progress won’t be possible until the snow stops,” police said in a Facebook post.

On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan asked residents to stay home if possible while crews clean roads. And local mass transit agencies had canceled or changed Wednesday’s service.


Find out how Metro, MARC, VRE and bus services have changed in light of the inclement weather.


Timing

Snow began reaching the ground in northern Maryland at around 6:30 a.m. Frederick, Maryland, and the nearby airport were both seeing light snow.

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, 2 inches had already fallen in Fauquier County, Virginia, and around a quarter-inch had fallen near the Prince William County line.

The snow started falling as early as 4 a.m. Wednesday, reaching central Virginia and eastern West Virginia; snow fell to the south and west of D.C., including Fredericksburg, Virginia, at around 4:30 a.m., Ricketts reported.

Accumulation

The forecast for the area was predicted to be between 4 to 6 inches. For the snow totals in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, click here.

Airports

There were 15 cancellations reported at Reagan National Airport, 106 at BWI Marshall Airport and almost 100 in Dulles International Airport. Check whether your flight is canceled through Flight Aware’s cancellation tool. 

Interruptions to other services

The heavy snowfall caused interruptions to trash and recycling collection in Montgomery County. County-provided trash and recycling collection was canceled and will slide two days later than normal. The Transfer Station is closed.

In Annapolis, yard waste and bulk trash collection is rescheduled for next Wednesday.

Forecast

Wednesday:
Evening: Freezing rain becoming drizzle, with fog possible — temperatures slowly rising through the 30s

Thursday: Showers possible until 8 a.m. Clouds giving way to some sun
Highs in the 50s

Friday: Partly to mostly cloudy
Highs around 50

Saturday: Some rain likely otherwise cloudy
High in the 40s

Current conditions:

Power outages in the area

See the power outage map below for the latest reports on outages.

WTOP’s Reem Nadeem contributed to this report.

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