- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2005

A mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow closed schools and jammed roads in the D.C. area yesterday, but conditions improved rapidly and the winter weather advisory was lifted at 9:30 last night, 91/2 hours ahead of schedule.

By last evening, much of the area was receiving just heavy rain that was washing away what little snow had fallen earlier in the day.

The storm began at about 7 a.m. yesterday, dusting the region with light snow and sleet before turning to freezing rain in the afternoon. Below-freezing temperatures through much of the morning kept roads slippery and prompted many school officials to dismiss classes early.

But by early evening, temperatures had risen above freezing, and some jurisdictions were reining in their snowplows and salt trucks.

“The weather is warming, and whatever sleet, snow and frozen rain has fallen is melting,” Bill Rice, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said yesterday afternoon.

“We are reducing our operations accordingly,” he said, adding that a small fleet of salt trucks would be available as needed.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service had expected that all precipitation would end by about 3 a.m. today.

Daytime temperatures today are expected to be in the low 40s with mostly sunny skies before dropping into the mid-20s tonight. Clear weather should remain through the weekend with no significant precipitation expected through Wednesday.

Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the agency would have only a “skeleton crew” on the roads overnight.

“We really haven’t had any freezing on the pavement,” she said. “We have a lot of slush out there, so people will have to be careful, but the roads have been treated.”

By 10 p.m., seven-tenths of an inch of rain had fallen at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport — which would have amounted to 7 inches of snow if it had been colder.

The wintry mix was blamed for at least one pileup on area roadways.

Maryland State Police said an icy ramp connecting the Greenbelt Metro station to the Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway was responsible for a nine-car accident shortly after 4 p.m.

Sgt. Rob Moroney, a state police spokesman, said there were no serious injuries.

Meanwhile, driving conditions were worse in the higher elevations.

Freezing rain slowed the evening rush for homebound commuters in Carroll, Frederick and parts of Baltimore counties. Several inches of snow fell in Washington and Allegany counties, and Garrett County had sleet all day, followed by evening snowfall.

“We’re going to be working all night, laying salt as fast as we can to keep up with the icing conditions in Western Maryland,” state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said.

Jillian Pavlik said her 120-mile drive through the mountains from Morgantown, W.Va., to Hagerstown was slow and scary.

“The road conditions were awful. They were completely covered in ice and snow,” said Miss Pavlik, 21, a West Virginia University student bound for Fairfax.

Icy conditions on southbound Interstate 695 in Baltimore caused several fender-benders, state transportation officials said last night.

The accidents occurred about 5 p.m., and traffic was stopped while the vehicles were cleared from the elevated portion of the highway leading to the toll plaza on the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The storm slammed parts of the South.

A blast of freezing rain and ice across Georgia and the Carolinas caused power outages to more than 450,000 customers.

In Kannapolis, N.C., just north of Charlotte, authorities said the weight buckled a 100-foot-tall tree that crashed through a house and crushed to death a 58-year-old man while he reclined on a couch in his living room.

The storm also was blamed for a school bus accident in Cherokee County, Ga., north of Atlanta. The driver swerved to avoid a large tree branch that had fallen across the road, causing the vehicle’s rear tires to slide off the road. None of the 23 students aboard the bus was injured.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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