Risk of refreeze overnight, as DC area finishes 1st snow of the year

The D.C. area is getting over the first snowfall of the year, but the ordeal is not over yet. Dropping temperatures led to icy road conditions with crashes being reported overnight, and several schools have announced closings and delays for Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know.

“Everything that looks wet, assume it’s ice,” Ellen Kamilakis, of the Virginia Department of Transportation, told WTOP at about 7 p.m.

Untreated and secondary road are specially prone to freezing, as our bridges, ramps and overpasses.

School systems in Maryland and Virginia have announced closures and delays for Wednesday. See WTOP’s full list of closures and early dismissals for more details.

Kamilakis said that VDOT crews and some 700 trucks will be working overnight and into the morning to treat roads, and she asked drivers to give them room to do their jobs.

“There is sometimes a strategy to driving on snow,” Kamilakis said, “but there is never a strategy for driving on ice.”

There were reports of crashes late Tuesday night. Fairfax County police reported several disabled cars and crashes on Kincheloe Road between Yates Ford Road and Clifton Road.

Wednesday morning traffic on Beach Drive from Grove 10 and Joyce Road NW in D.C. may be affected, as U.S. Park Police closed the road due to a large fallen tree that will be removed Wednesday.

D.C. roads experienced an early afternoon rush on Tuesday, as a lot of people were let out of work and school early. Some crashes were reported on D.C. 295, the Capital Beltway and in Route 50, among others.

Overnight freeze was the biggest worry for Charlie Gischlar, of the Maryland State Highway Administration. He told WTOP at about 4 p.m. that while the sun was coming out in far western Maryland, bridges, ramps and overpasses in the D.C. area could freeze up as the temperatures dropped.

Crews didn’t pre-treat the roads, Gischlar said, because the storm began as rain and would have simply washed any salt away, but were brining the roads as the afternoon went on Tuesday.

Even though not much snow accumulated, at one point in the afternoon it was falling in some areas at a rate of about an inch to an inch and a half per hour, which was playing havoc with visibility.

A view of the snow in Arlington, Virginia, Jan. 7, 2020. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Snow is “falling like powdered sugar” in Sterling, along the Harry Byrd Highway, WTOP’s Michelle Basch reports. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
The snow is getting picturesque in Front Royal … (WTOP/Mike Stinneford)
… and in McLean. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
A view of Tuesday’s snow near the Clarendon Metro station. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
old car covered in snow
So far, snow is only accumulating on parked cars in Northwest D.C. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Another view of Tuesday’s snow in Clarendon. (WTOP/Dan Friedell)
Snow falls on Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (WTOP/Teta Alim)
Snow falls on Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (WTOP/Teta Alim)
More snow on the trees in McLean, Virginia. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Snow in Loudoun County Jan. 7, 2020. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
(WTOP/Neal Augenstein)
old car covered in snow
Snow falls on Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (WTOP/Teta Alim)

An early rush hour

Reada Kessler, in the WTOP Traffic Center, said that the rush of people leaving work and school early caused delays on area roads, though they were mostly volume delays. Increased security at military installations, especially in Bethesda and at Quantico and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, slowed down the exodus.

WTOP traffic reporter Dave Dildine said Express Lanes tolls on Interstate 395 and 95 from D.C. to Stafford County were at one point running about $60, an indication of how many people were out on the roads.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management said all government employees had to depart no later than 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Many of the area’s school systems dismissed students early and some canceled after-school activities.


The Maryland State Highway Administration said it will deploy equipment and treatment as necessary, reminding drivers to “take it slow on ice and snow,” since speed limits are set for dry conditions. The Virginia Department of Transportation will also be treating roads.

For the latest road and traffic conditions, see WTOP’s traffic page or listen to updates every 10 minutes online or on the air at 103.5 FM. Submit traffic tips by calling 866-304-WTOP or tagging @WTOPtraffic on Twitter.


Wednesday: Blustery and cold. Mix of clouds and sun. A few scattered flurries. Highs in the upper 30s to mid 40s.

Thursday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid to upper 30s.

Current conditions and power outages

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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