- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

A surprise storm yesterday froze morning rush-hour commuters on icy roads west and north of the District, causing hundreds of traffic accidents that sent scores of drivers and pedestrians to area hospitals.
Montgomery County police were trying to determine if icy roads caused the driver of a 1988 Honda Prelude to hit and kill Alicia Allen, 15, as she walked along Great Seneca Highway near Northwest High School at 7 a.m. yesterday.
In Carroll County, Md., a 50-year-old man who apparently was trying to warn drivers about icy conditions was killed when he was struck by a car slipping off a road near Eldersburg.
Montgomery County police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said the police department received 240 reports of traffic accidents between 6:45 and 10 a.m. yesterday.
Fairfax County police spokeswoman Jody Donaldson said the department logged 156 accident reports in three hours, three times the normal rate. Arlington County police reported 36 morning fender benders.
Howard County had 148 accidents with 21 injuries, while Baltimore County reported more than 270, most of them in the western section of the county along Interstates 83, 695 and 795.
Injuries generally were minor, but unexpected patients jammed emergency rooms.
"We were very busy," said Ronna Borenstein, information officer for Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.
By 11 a.m., seven patients were being treated for traumas at Suburban, and extra surgeons and nurses were called to help. About 50 to 60 people were in the emergency room from minor car accidents or falls on the ice.
Examinations showed they suffered abrasions, sprains and broken bones, Miss Borenstein said.
"We were just flooded with patients," said Robert Jepson, spokesman for Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.
Doctors and staff from other sections of the hospital were called to the emergency room to help minister to 145 patients.
A 6:30 a.m. shower mixed with freezing temperatures to create ice-slick routes that hampered traffic.
Perhaps the greatest disruption occurred in the Montgomery County public schools.
Buses, which already had delivered high school students to their schools, were picking up elementary and middle school students when the rain fell and roads iced.
The school system at first delayed the opening of the middle and elementary schools by two hours. At 7:15 a.m., Superintendent Jerry D. Weast decided to cancel classes in those schools.
Buses with students sat in parking lots throughout the county, waiting for daylight temperatures to thaw the ice. More than 40 buses were slightly damaged by ice-related collisions.
Most high school students, many transported on buses that begin routes at 6 a.m., were already at schools, which continued normally, including after-school activities.
"It was the worst possible conditions at the worst possible time," said schools spokesman Brian Porter, explaining that the transportation department constantly monitors the weather and forecasts, and saw no hint of ice forming.
So it was in Fairfax County. Schools Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech said he has to decide by 5 a.m. on weather-related school closings. With no indications of ice, buses ran their routes as usual. Mr. Domenech said the bad conditions were north of Fairfax County.
Slippery roads caused problems for Northern Virginia commuters.
"This morning was a disaster," said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police.
"We had numerous pileups on the ramps. It just caught everyone by surprise," she said.
Commuters' cars and occasional salt trucks were stalled on ice along Interstate 66, roads west of Interstate 495 and the highways serving Washington Dulles International Airport, Mrs. Caldwell said.

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