- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2001

Rain falling on bone-dry roads caused hundreds of car wrecks and probably were responsible for two men's deaths over the weekend.
The long-awaited rains continued yesterday. There were fewer accidents and slick roads apparently were not responsible for a Montgomery County crash that killed a man.
Communications officers for police and fire departments throughout the Washington area said traffic problems yesterday were comparatively slight as residents settled and rested from Thanksgiving celebrations and prepared for a return today to a normal work and school week.
The rain over much of the East Coast obviously threatened thousands of travelers. The Mid-Atlantic AAA estimated 472,000 D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia residents took to the roads during the weekend.
The drizzle had no real effect at Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports. They were busy as usual. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is always the "Super Bowl of air travel," said Tara Hamilton of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
"There were a lot of passengers from Thanksgiving trips," Ms. Hamilton said, but, "there were no problems. Flights were on time."
Although a light rain was falling at 10:43 a.m. yesterday, police did not blame it alone for a two-car crash at New Hampshire Avenue and Windswept Lane north of Ashton. Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer described it as a "T-bone crash."
"Excessive speed for conditions" was the cause, reported Cassandra Onley from county police communications.
Killed in the accident was William Murphy, 58, who was driving his Saab north toward his home in Brookeville. Police said Mr. Murphy lost control and crossed into the southbound lane of New Hampshire Avenue, crashing into a Subaru carrying Walter E. Melnik, 38, his wife, Margaret, 32, and their daughters, Hope, 2, and Jillian, 5 months. The family lives in Ijamsville, Md.
Mr. Melnik suffered slight injuries. Mrs. Melnik was taken in a state police helicopter to Washington Hospital Center's trauma unit where she was reported in satisfactory condition last night. The girls were taken to Children's Hospital and reported to be in fair condition.
Rescue workers had to cut through the metal wreckage to remove Mr. Murphy's body.
Yesterday, Maryland State Police identified the driver who died after his 1987 Volkswagen Golf slid off southbound Interstate 95 north of Old Gunpowder Road near Beltsville at 8:28 a.m. Saturday. The car flipped over into a ditch, killing Joshua James McCauley, 22, of the 2800 block of Hillcrest Drive SE in the District.
A passing motorist saw the overturned Golf and called police.
Later, in a similar accident near Route 32, a car skidded off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and slammed into a tree, killing the driver. Police yesterday had not released his identity.
Police said the roads were made slick by a drizzle that floated oils to road surfaces that had been dry all fall because of the drought. Medium and heavy rains usually wash those oils off road surfaces.
They were "very bad" conditions, said Maryland Police Cpl. Rob Moroney, urging drivers to slow down and start braking early for stops.
In Montgomery County alone, there were more than 100 car accidents between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Mr. Piringer said.
Things had changed yesterday. Like police everywhere, Prince George's County police reported few accidents and a "quiet Sunday." State police in Montgomery County said "all the traffic was yesterday." And U.S. Park Police said that on Saturday, "We couldn't stop answering the phone."
The rain had an unexpected effect of causing fires in Northern Virginia. It floated dust, pollen and other debris from electric power lines down to wooden crossarms on poles in Tysons Corner, Fairfax and Herndon. That caused electrical shorts that set the wooden arms afire and broke the lines, said Dan Genest, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power.
By 11 p.m. Saturday, power had been restored to all 6,000 customers. Another power-pole fire cut power in Falls Church at midmorning yesterday, but it was quickly restored. Mr. Genest said there were only 58 outages reported by midafternoon, which is about normal.


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