- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

Commuters, students and last-minute Christmas shoppers in much of the D.C. area woke up this morning to a thin blanket of snow — the season’s first.

Temperatures were expected to dip into the teens this morning, and teams of snowplow drivers stood ready last night to push 1 to 2 inches of snow off the roads.

The National Weather Service yesterday issued a winter weather advisory for the entire Washington metropolitan area, calling for 1 to 2 inches of accumulation, with snowfall and freezing temperatures expected to continue through the morning and into tonight.

Today’s high temperature is expected to be in the mid-20s.

“We are looking at this as a very mild storm,” said Ryan Hall, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Wintry conditions may have been a factor yesterday in several car wrecks on area roads and highways.

Just after 2 p.m., three cars collided at Bel Pre and Homecrest roads in the Aspen Hill area. Seven persons, including two children, were injured. Four of the victims had life-threatening injuries and were taken by helicopter to hospitals.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said two of the victims were trapped in the car before rescuers could reach them.

Firefighters also had to cut a person out of a car on Interstate 270.

Traffic on the highway was blocked for several hours.

Transportation officials are urging people to stay off the roads today if possible.

In the true D.C. tradition, road crews and residents were talking up the storm and bracing for messy road conditions because of the predicted dusting.

Virginia Department of Transportation crews began gearing up for the snow at 2 p.m. yesterday, with 400 trucks preparing to pre-treat roads to keep them from freezing.

The Maryland State Highway Administration did not return calls yesterday about road conditions.

D.C. crews yesterday were planning to blitz the roads with more than 80 trucks.

“The crews will pre-treat with de-icer and salt, concentrating on bridges, overpasses and hilly and shady roads in anticipation,” said Bill Rice, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation.

Additional crews were ready to clear roads “as conditions warrant,” he said.

The forecast called for pockets of light freezing rain or freezing drizzle falling through the afternoon while temperatures hovered near freezing.

“With ground temperatures remaining relatively warm, roads are not expected to form ice,” the National Weather Service said on its Web site.

The freezing rain changed into snow in some areas in the early evening.

However, ice remained the No. 1 concern for VDOT.

“If you notice that the roads look wet, it is probably ice,” Mr. Hall said. “At … 25 degrees, it is always going to be ice.”

VDOT was reminding drivers to leave early, drive slowly and leave plenty of room between cars.

“You have to realize that it only takes one accident to slow things up for everyone,” Mr. Hall said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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