The Washington region yesterday saw its first snowfall of the season, which prompted most area schools to close early and road crews to bring out their salt and sand trucks to clear highways before this morning’s commute.
The snow caused traffic backups on area highways including Interstates 270 and 395 and the Capital Beltway into the evening. Similar traffic tie-ups — and school delays or cancellations — can be expected this morning, as overnight temperatures were expected to drop below freezing levels and cause slippery roads, officials said.
By last night, less than an inch of snow had fallen at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport — much less than the 10 inches that was originally forecast.
“We expect 1 to 2 inches inside the District,” said Calvin Meadows, a meteorological technician with the National Weather Service. “We were predicting 10 inches of snow.”
The National Weather Service had a snow advisory in effect for the Washington region until 7 a.m. today. Snow was expected to taper off after midnight, as the storm system heads out into the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. Meadows said.
Although the ground was too warm for most of the snow to stick yesterday afternoon, temperatures were expected to drop overnight, Mr. Meadows said.
Temperatures were expected to drop to mid- to upper 20s last night. Today, temperatures are expected to be in the upper 30s and drop to 10 to 15 degrees tonight, the weather service reported.
The snow began falling in the Washington area at about 1 p.m. yesterday.
As soon as the first snowflakes appeared, crews began spraying salt and sand on area roads in preparation for this morning’s rush hour.
“We’ve loaded up and sent our trucks out for deployment at various spots throughout the city so they’re in position,” said Bill Rice, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation. “We’ve done some pre-salting and pre-treating on particularly the bridges and major roadways. We are ready.”
The Maryland State Highway Administration, which maintains all numbered roads in the state, mobilized 188 staff members and 153 pieces of equipment to take care of the snowfall into the night, said Sandra Dobson, a spokeswoman for the agency.
“You all think about snow when it snows, we think about it 365 days a year,” she said. “We’re always prepared and always ready to take it on. You never know what Mother Nature is going to bring on. Sometimes it’s more and sometime’s less, but we’re fully prepared for whatever it is.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) was ready for the snow long before it began falling in Northern Virginia early yesterday afternoon.
“We will have 800 salt trucks and plows on the road, and they’ll start treating just as soon as the white stuff begins to stick to the pavement,” said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for VDOT. “Hopefully everyone will get home safely during rush hour and then we’ll have the roads all to ourselves and we’ll treat them once, probably twice before the morning commute.”
Almost all schools systems and universities in Virginia and Maryland closed early yesterday afternoon or canceled afternoon and evening activities because of the snow.