- Associated Press - Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene had minimal impact on the always challenging morning commute in the Washington area, but the storm disrupted travel plans for some who were headed out of town.

William Penner, 48, of Washington was due in New York City for a work trip Monday but didn’t expect to be able to travel. His usual Delta shuttle flights were canceled, and he said traveling on Amtrak could also be a problem.

Mr. Penner was also concerned that taxicabs in New York would be overloaded because of public transit problems.

Despite widespread outages in southern and eastern Prince George’s County, traffic was moving smoothly on the main routes from that part of the county to the District, including Pennsylvania Avenue, Branch Avenue and the Suitland Parkway. While a handful of signals were out, there were no major backups as a result of those outages.

Morning traffic reports on WTOP-FM advised commuters of the usual collection of fender-benders and volume-related slowdowns on Interstate 95 in Virginia and the Capital Beltway in Maryland.

Some people just stayed home. The federal government allowed employees to take unscheduled leave or work from home if possible.

Transportation officials urged motorists to use caution when approaching dark intersections and to treat them as four-way stops, although not all drivers were heeding that advice.

Moreatha Whitney, 35, of Suitland, who is self-employed, decided against making her usual commute to Alexandria because the power was out in her apartment and her children were home from school.

“A lot of people are not going to work today,” Whitney said. “A lot of schools are out, and they have to be home with their kids.”

Terrence Gates, 58, of the District, said he left about 10 minutes early Monday to reach his job at Navy Medical Center in Bethesda because he expected some trouble on his commute that involves a drive, a bus ride and a Metro ride.

“A lot of traffic lights were out (yesterday),” Mr. Gales said. “But actually, I didn’t encounter any today.”

Jennifer Narum, 23, of the District, said she didn’t expect any trouble getting to work at her federal agency, and she wasn’t anticipating any extra time off. Her office was released an hour early Friday and after the earthquake last Tuesday.

“I figured that was as good as it was going to get,” she said outside the Cleveland Park Metro station

Several signals were out at intersections along Piney Branch Road in the Takoma Park area. Officers kept traffic moving, and cars were backed up for less than a block.

In Rockville, traffic was flowing smoothly on usually busy Rockville Pike. Traffic lights were operating normally and businesses were open.

“If anything it’s lighter than normal,” said Joe Adams of Olney.

• Associated Press writer Brett Zongker in Washington and Matthew Barakat in Rockville contributed to this report



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