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GW Parkway Reopened As Crews Clear Abandoned Cars

by ARLnow.com January 27, 2011 at 11:04 am 4,319 47 Comments

Closed since it was the scene of a “bumper-car graveyard” last night, one lane of the northbound George Washington Parkway has finally reopened near Spout Run.

The road was closed for most of the morning as crews worked to clear snow, fallen trees and abandoned vehicles.

G.W. Parkway drivers spent up to 14 hours in their cars, from yesterday afternoon to early this morning, as fallen trees and collisions blocked the roadway in both directions.

“I have a friend who has been there since 5pm. She says cops are walking up and down, people are huddling together in cars,” a Twitter user told us just before 11:00 last night. There were reports of cars running out of gas and of people simply getting out of their cars and walking.

U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser tells WTOP that the Parkway was jammed due to a “cascading effect – crashes, trees coming down, people abandoning their vehicles.”

One woman who had been stuck on the Parkway told NBC Washington that she made it home at 5:30 this morning, after leaving her Crystal City office at 4:45 p.m.

Abandoned cars are being towed to the parking lots at the scenic overlook and Roosevelt Island.

Dr. Gridlock has more information on how to retrieve an abandoned vehicle.

Photo courtesy Steve Buttry.

  • Rebecca

    I don’t feel bad for any of you people who got suck on the roads. You knew there was a snow storm coming so why would try. Plan accordingly.

    • Ali

      Not everyone has control over when they get to leave work.

      • Arlingtonian

        How dare they work for a living!

    • jan

      Tell that to the medical personnel who got off at 4 or 6 pm.

    • The Noze Bros

      Your lack of empathy saddens me.

    • Donna

      I can’t believe this is a serious comment.
      You sound just like the people who criticized the fine folks of New Orleans during Katrina.

      • Arlingtonian

        You know if Rebecca was the one getting stranded she would of course consider her own reason for being on the roads perfectly acceptable. Lucky for her she could sit on her high horse feeling smug and warm about it. Don’t worry, karma will get her.

      • Westover

        Katrina Folks had DAYS to get out, but the city failed to provide enough means for the poor to get out of town, but there was still plenty of warning to get out. Some folks stubbernly stayed who could have left. This was a fast moving storm that was not on anyone’s radar 24 hours before, and was thought to be just rain on the way 36 hours before. Katrina Folks DID screw up. But melting snow that effects someone for 12-48 hours is far different than a Hurricane that knocks down building THEN floods what remains standing.

        • Racist much?

          Who really screwed up is the Army Corps of Engineers who tried to pass off levees as acceptable and state/federal governments for their incompetence. Give me a break.

          • Westover

            Most of those killed died before the major levee bursts in the initial storm surge. Racism had nothing to do with it. Engineers are too much of geeks to waste time with racist thoughts on how to make a levee that will burst only in poor or black parts of a town. The tragedy in NOLA was a combination of a misbuilt levee system, a failure of the state and local governments to prepare to take care of those folks, and the failure of individuals to heed the warnings and little assistance that WAS being offered.

          • Racist much?

            Wasn’t suggesting the Corps or Mother Nature to be racist…but your “Katrina Folks did screw up” comment sure smacks of it.

    • Snowed In

      not only are they stupid for leaving at the last minute, but why the hell would you commit to GW Pkwy, 66, Clara Barton Pkwy, or any other highway with no out in this situation? If they had taken local roads, at least they’d have more options. People are so tunnel visioned and only go the way they always go without thinking.

      • Rebecca (not really)

        Maybe people thought that taking a major, federal roadway would be a safer bet than trying to get through on small, local roads, which often don’t get plowed for days, if at all.

      • Westover

        A ton of folks were stuck themselves and causing back ups on the side streets too. Guess what, having a nice high performance luxury car is fine on a sunny day, maybe even a rainy day, but your high performance tires that are as wide as a steamroller and your 400hp engine is not going to help you get up a snow covered road.

  • Lacy Forest

    I’ve lived here more than a decade, and I’ve never seen anything like the traffic last evening. It hit so hard so fast that even people who left their offices two or three hours early got caught up in it. You, Rebecca, are an ass.

    • Katie

      I was thinking of a word that rhymes with bunt.

      • AllenB

        I don’t think runt is harsh enough.

    • Sunny617

      I agree, Lacy. Everyone is blaming “people in suburbs” or “people who left early” or “people who didn’t wait it out” or “people who should have telecommuted.” This was the epitome of a perfect storm: feds, schools, and others letting out right as snow hit, the snow was hard and fast, and it was wet adding downed trees into the mix. The people who took leave and left early got caught in it. Those of us who left late got caught in it. People who live 2 miles from work got caught in it. Bus riders got caught in it. Plows couldn’t do anything. It created a disaster soup that few would have guessed.
      Yes, there were a lot of stupid people out there, but this was more than just stupid drivers with a quarter tank of gas and an itchy pedal foot. It was the perfect storm of problems and terrible timing. Let’s clean up, learn some lessons, and stop yelling at each other.

      • Snowed In

        lets not forget to blame the idiots who think it’s a good idea to take their rear wheel drive sportscar out for a spin, and these idiots who got on highways that are normally choked with traffic in good weather, but the exits are several miles apart. I’d probably have tried Lee Hwy or Wash Blvd. At least there are Starbucks and gas stations those ways.

  • DaltonMinimum

    I feel like “abandoned” cars is the wrong thing to say. “Stranded” seems more accurate.

  • North Adams Snob

    Honestly folks- it really wasn’t anyone’s *fault* here. Yes- people should’ve thought before getting on the Parkway- but 50 from Falls Church wasn’t much better and my carpool left right at 4 p.m. (I told my employees to skeedaddle as well). The conditions deteriorated at a rate that I’ve never seen before- and the snow was the sort of wet, sticky stuff that turns to ice at the drop of a hat. Of course, it doesn’t help that D.C. has alot of people who don’t know how to drive in the snow…

  • Rebecca is a Troll

    What a twit – probably abandoned her Prius in the middle of the road.

  • I just wish the road crews would have salted the streets as copiously as the did for the 1/4 in. and 2 in. snowfalls we got not too long ago. Failure is on everyones part, especially Rebecca’s.

    • Sunny617

      They did. It washed away in the hour of torrential downpour that came before the snow hit.

  • Bender

    Part of the problem, as well, is that workplaces that let out early to avoid the storm apparently all let out at the same time (about three hours early), which was also just as the storm was hitting. Thus, even without snow, it was going to be gridlock.

    With everyone out there at the same time, there was no chance of road crews clearing the roads. And then when one or two snow-maroons got themselves stuck, everyone got stuck behind them. And because the roads were packed, no plowing salting could be done.

    Next time, government needs to let out either much earlier, or keep people longer, so that everyone is not out there at the same time. If a third of the people had left work at noon, rather than 3-4 p.m., and another third had stayed at work until 7 p.m., there would have been 2/3 fewer cars out there, and hence no problems.

  • Steve-O

    Bender is 110% right. The federal government really should have comprehended what dumping most of their workforce on the roads at the same time would do.

    I love how many local official said the lesson they learned from Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse was to “keep expectations low.” No you should learn how to anticipate problems and lessen them.

  • Erin

    My brother in law was coming from a convention in DC, one that he had to go to. Got in his car at 4:00, called me at 8:30, stuck on the GW Parkway. He lives out in Herndon, so I told him get off at Spout Run, stay with me. He got to my house after 11:00….S Arlington. Some people just had no option when they could leave, and I all I can think about is if he didn’t have a place in Arlington to stay, he would have been in the car like some of those people for 13+ hours.
    Absolutely absurd, and instead of mocking people who got stuck, why not have some sympathy for people that don’t always have the option to leave when they want, or work from home.

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  • pitrpatter

    It is easy “in hind sight” to criticize… but unless you were out there in the mess you cannot know what these people went through. The release was staggered. Federal GOVT release was “two hours early”… that meant two hours from your normally staggered work hours. There were no alternatives for many of those on the GW Parkway. No way to exit, advance or return. And for the majority of the time the reports from every major artery in the area was slowed to a crawl, or a stop so this was a regional safety concern not a single path failure.

    As a commuter who was stuck in the mess (x10 hours), I can tell you I am thankful for getting stuck at a spot where some good samaritans were actaully able to get to us and help us cross the median. Please see the story of their selfless act on ABC 7 news. Those men have my eternal thanks and will forever be my heroes and I hope they get some recognition for it.

    Patty M.

  • Rick

    It was allenb’s fault

    • AllenB

      Well, it usually is. But I can’t claim to control some people’s lack of planning, however much I wish I could.

  • Carter

    Hey Rebecca, here’s a thought: VDOT and park police — you knew a storm was coming, plan accordingly!

  • Really Rebecca?

    I’m sure it’s likely that after leaving such a rude ignorant comment that Rebecca will likely not get back on here to check what we all say since she’s a coward who criticizes the intelligence of people she’s never met. So, it’s also likely a waste of my breath, but really Rebecca? My family has been raised in Arlington and we know the area like the back of our own hands, but we also have these things called jobs and though conditions were “expected” they’d been “expected” at least 2 times before this season and lead to nothing except some cold rain and a little ice… so some offices after the false alarms (schools too) waited until late to allow any early release. The government employees were all out within an hour of each other based on personal work hours and 2 hours early release from those hours so that caused simply a population issue, but on top of it the conditions got bad FAST and people went from driving in a little sleet and rain to larger flakes that made white hazzy vision within minutes. The Parkway freezes first because it’s near the water, but the condition of the road wasn’t the biggest issue… how can one plan and anticipate for backups that cause people to LEAVE their cars which then sit in the road and cause MORE backups… does the weather-man tell you this is likely to happen? No, so it’s not exactly something you can plan for. I was in a meeting that I was not allowed to leave before 5:30. The roads still weren’t terrible and it just look like regular winter delays, by time I was on exit from Spout Run on the Parkway we were stand still. This was now 6:15… I was home in North Arlington (less than 5 miles from the exit) at 10:30. Winter I can plan for… I have winter tires, I have 4wheel drive, I have boots, salt, and a shovel. Falling trees (when the snow isn’t THAT “much” but just coming down hard all at once) and then people leaving cars in the middle of the road, is not something I was prepared for. I didn’t blame anyone else, I thought “what if I took the other route home”, but it doesn’t make me less prepared or stupid. I planned accordingly. You likely were cozzy at home, having planned so well, alone because you’re such a jerk to people who weren’t blaming you for a thing.

    Just keep your opinion out of it next time.

    • Westover

      I am now going to keep a chainsaw in the back of my Jeep for downed trees during snow storms, Rebecca won’t be able to call ME out!

      • Really Rebecca?

        I knew I had forgotten something on my “winter necessities” list… don’t forget your tow chains either. 😉

        • Westover

          Actually have those, even put them in the wife’s Volvo. Not sure if I will get her a chainsaw too though.

  • Snowed In

    Quit blaming your employers, VDOT, US Park Police, housing costs, the County Manager, Santa Claus, or Doug Hill for what happened. Oh wow, look, it’s snowing! I guess I’ll get in my car now and take it for a scenic voyage on the parkway up to Langley. Nobody put a gun to your head and demanded you drive home. Nobody told you you had to live out in BFE. I don’t make a lot, but I have enough common sense to simplify my life and live within my means, CLOSE to work. I don’t blame everyone else for my occasional misfortunes. And if someone has to be stuck for a few or several hours in their warm car listening to Classical WETA, big friggin deal. There’s a lot more atrocities going on around the world and horrendous conditions people are stuck in for life. Sorry you spoiled cry babies had to miss Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. Get over it, you crybabies make me sick. BTW, quit attacking Rebecca, shw has the right to comment how she feels. I like that. Hey Rebecca, will you go out with me?

    • Really Rebecca?

      I don’t know if you noticed, but we weren’t blaming anyONE for what happened and we were the ones stuck in it… I was at work in a meeting, which I had to be at. I don’t BLAME the meeting just stating why it wasn’t un-prepared of me to leave work when I did. You’re just as dumb as she is and you two would be totally great together. I hope it works out for you both and you can be snowed in together and away from the rest of us who simply felt unlucky and misfortuned to have picked the wrong route home. Snow happens. It sucked, but I don’t blame anyone. Lighten up.

  • Sundey

    Wow, this story has clearly effected many of you. lol

  • Erin

    I just spoke to a client at work, she ran out of gas on 495 last night after sitting for 6 hours, and had to leave her car (her battery died shortly thereafter, so she had no emergency flashers = scared to stay in the car). VA State Police towed the car to a facility in Falls Church, and if she gets it out by midnight tonight, it will “only” cost her $343.00. Less than 10 miles away and more than $300…as of now, she doesn’t know about a ticket, but that will probably be coming down the pipe. Double whammy!

  • South Arlington

    I think the real lesson is more people should start reading capitalweather.com instead of relying on blowhard, fake “meteorologists” on local news. Capital Weather predicted yesterday’s storm to a T, as well as predicted that the odds were good that the earlier storms would fizzle (and they did). This storm shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.

  • Carrie

    Wow is right! So much anger out there! Kind of sad.

  • BoredHouseWife

    . Too many people are blaming this traffic nightmare on the plows. They were out at 8am yesterday. I think it is a combination of miscalled weather reports relating to snow + the type of snow + probably since the economy sucks more bald tires on the road.

  • Greg

    I was front and center in the GW backup yesterday, leaving work from Georgetown at 4 and not breaking free until after 2 a.m. We can certainly debate the reasons for the event, people leaving all at once, the timing and severity of the storm, etc., but once the gridlock ensued, the process was completely mis-managed and exacerbated by the Park Authority/Park Police. It was like a 14 hour video loop of the Keystone Cops.

    The main cause of backup was icing of the roadway on a few upgrades. The southbound lanes were cleared, briefly closed and plowed and reopened around 9. But there was no salt (or ash) manually shoveled from a truck on the SB lanes under the dozen or so stuck cars (mainly at the hill prior to the 123 exit) which were holding up the entire line of cars. As a transplanted Northerner, I can say that a little salt would have opened flow in under an hour (it was barely 32 degrees).

    Second, only at 2 a.m., (after 12 hours of standing still) was I able to move a few hundred yards and drive over the median and escape southbound. A few others had made the move before me. The police could have turned stranded driver through the median at numerous spots along the gridlock and sent them south at least 5 hours before I made the turn on my own (w. a rear wheel drive car).

    Only at 2 a.m. did the police begin to back cars up and turn them around to get to sprout run. This could have happen 5 hours earlier.

    The inability of the park police to plan for or “manage” the crisis is the primary reason people were stranded for 14 hours. They attemped for 14 hours to move stranded cars and force everyone forward, a losing effort. I shudder to think how they would react in an attack or natural disaster that would require an evacuation of DC.

    • Rebecca (not really)

      Blaming the drivers and asking people to leave work earlier is really irrelevant. There WILL be people on the roads, that is a fact. People have to get home, and if the 1000 cars stuck on the parkway had taken alternate routes, THOSE roads would have been in the same mess. The issue here is that VDOT and Park Police need to come up with some kind of plan in an event like this. They know when there is an accident on that road, people are stuck with no options, so why wouldn’t they take precautions with emergency snow preparations, e.g. salting right away. Could have saved them a lot of headache in the end, too.

  • Arlingtonian

    I think it’s best if we all just agree this was Sarah Palin’s fault.

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