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Snow Creates Dangerous Morning Commute, Massive Delays

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An accident blocks the entrance to I-495 on Connecticut Avenue. (credit: Sam Weiner/All-News 99.1 WNEW)

An accident blocks the entrance to I-495 on Connecticut Avenue. (credit: Sam Weiner/All-News 99.1 WNEW)

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Updated: 1:37 p.m. Feb. 26, 2014
Posted: 12:24 p.m. Feb. 25, 2014

LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — The second blast of winter weather in as many days delayed some schools and created a nightmarish and icy morning commute for drivers in the Washington area.

The National Weather Service had issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the entire D.C. and Baltimore regions until noon Wednesday.

The treacherous conditions led to a multitude of accidents and massive delays of two hours or longer along the Capital Beltway.

At one point, drivers on the Outer Loop faced a two-hour backup between Route 5 and Tysons Corner, according to WNEW traffic reporter Julie Wright. The drive between I-395 and Route 50 in Maryland cost commuters two and a half hours of their morning.

It is unclear whether the adverse conditions contributed to an accident involving a school bus in Prince George’s County. Police say a car slid into the bus at the intersection of Saint Barnabas Road and Oxon Hill Road at 6:48 a.m.

Authorities say a nurse and child were on-board the bus along with the driver, and one person was taken to the hospital. The extent of the person’s injuries is not immediately known.

A woman and child in the striking vehicle suffered minor injuries.

The Maryland State Highway Administration and Virginia Department of Transportation say crews had been treating roadways, but still urged drivers to exercise caution.

“We were out there before it even started,” said MDSHA spokesperson Charlie Gischlar. “What happened was there were some snow bands that moved through the area that were actually dumping up to an inch an hour in intensity. When that happens and our crews are stuck in the same traffic as morning rush hour, well sometimes you do get some isolated coverage on the highway.”

Icy conditions on the American Legion Bridge caused numerous Virginia-bound cars to spin out, according toWright. The incident created a massive backup that extended onto Interstate 270.

Similarly treacherous road conditions were found throughout Maryland and Virginia. Portions of Route 355 in Rockville were snow-covered and slick, according to WNEW reporter George Mesthos.

Conditions on the East-West Highway in Maryland were particularly poor, according to Lisa Baden.

Schools in Prince George’s County and neighboring Montgomery County were not delayed and school officials have come under fire on social media. Parents, teachers, and students have directed frustration and concern on Twitter. Many tweets directed at the Montgomery County Public Schools official Twitter account included photos of accidents, one of which involved a school bus.

The decision to not delay the start of class may have compounded the slow commute.

“Whenever we have more traffic, it doesn’t necessarily even mean school, but any kind of traffic our (crews) are stuck in, we can’t be treating the highway because we’re moving at a snails pace or not at all in some cases,” Gischlar tells WNEW.

Complete Closings and Delays

Federal agencies opened on time, but workers were given the option to take unscheduled leave or telework.

Up to 3 inches of snow was possible in some areas, but most forecasts were calling for 1 to 2 inches in the immediate metro area. Channel 9 meteorologist Howard Bernstein said areas south of the District received higher snowfall totals.

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