- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Motorists were warned last night to stay off the roads this morning as a winter storm that could coat roads with up to a half-inch of freezing rain bore down on the area.
The storm, which swept across the Tennessee Valley, was expected to hit Virginia by about 4 a.m., then move north across the region. Forecasters said Maryland's northwestern counties would get hit with the most ice and "treacherous" conditions, while Annapolis and other eastern Maryland and Virginia cities should have mostly rain. A mix of sleet and rain was predicted for the District.
Highway crews are concerned because the recent cold snap including last week's snowstorm has created ideal conditions for the ice to cling to roads.
A fleet of 1,500 vehicles that includes plows and salt-spraying trucks was expected to hit the roads about midnight to prepare for the morning rush hour, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.
Kellie Boulware, a highway administration spokeswoman, said crews would take extra precautions because ice is more dangerous than the powdery snow that fell last week.
"And when it is still fairly dark out, it's difficult to distinguish" between an icy road and a wet road, Miss Boulware said. "Leave a little extra time for the journey. Keep some distance between your and other cars."
Even four-wheel-drive vehicles are unsafe on icy roads, she said.
A spokeswoman for the District's Department of Public Works said 127 trucks would be deployed about midnight, spreading a mixture of salt and liquid de-icer. She said the narrow, tree-lined residential streets would be pre-treated and crews would do a pass over the major thoroughfares and bridges.
The National Weather Service said freezing rain would move into Maryland's Montgomery and Frederick counties and Virginia's Loudoun and Prince William counties after 4 a.m.
Ice also could cause problems for electric utilities, especially with memories of last week's storm that coated much of North Carolina with ice before moving into the Washington area. Up to 2 million customers in North Carolina lost power at the height of the storm, and some were still waiting for the lights and heat to come on yesterday.
"We've been tracking weather all day, and we're holding over extra crews," said David Morehead, a spokesman for Potomac Electric Power Co. "We also have the ability to call additional help very quickly.
"When you have an ice storm, as evidenced by what happened in the Carolinas this past week, it's obviously a major, major problem for utilities," Mr. Morehead said, noting that iced-over tree branches can bring down power lines.
Richard Zuercher, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, said the company has in-house meteorologists who have been tracking the storm.
"We have been watching this for some time," Mr. Zuercher said. "Meteorologists make projections, and we allocate resources where we might need them. We position crews and use them as we need them."
He said the company has been placing line crews in strategic locations, particularly from Charlottesville and Orange, west of the Shenandoah Valley and north to Warrenton, Leesburg and Fairfax.
"We will be able to pull additional crews from North Carolina and up if we need additional resources," Mr. Zuercher said.
Locally, a winter-weather advisory was issued for the District, Prince George's County, Alexandria and Arlington.
The advisory was a blow to residents still recovering from Thursday's storm that dropped about 6 inches of snow on the region.
"This will make things more difficult," Robert Budway, 75, said yesterday as he looked at his street, Upland Terrace in Northwest, still packed with snow. Freezing rain on top of that will mean it will be even more slippery and difficult for Mr. Budway's son to get out this morning to drive to his job at Washington Dulles International Airport. He hoped that the nearby main thoroughfare of Western Avenue might be ice-free.
Mail carrier George Gordon was more sage.
A U.S. Postal Service employee for 28 years, Mr. Gordon planned to follow the postal credo that "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
He also said D.C. crews had done a good job of removing Thursday's snow from streets, but snow-packed sidewalks and stairs remained a problem.
The forecast of ice did not prompt a rush of closing announcements. Among those waiting were federal employees, who had to wait until this morning to know whether the government would be closed, said Edmund Byrnes, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management.
"We're going to be up bright and early to monitor the weather," he said. "We'll be talking to different municipalities and transportation authorities around here."
H.J. Brier contributed to this report.

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