(Update at 2:15 p.m.) Arlington County is preparing for the possibility of snow, sleet and freezing rain on Saturday, though the exact forecast is still far from certain.
“Crews began pretreating roads yesterday and will continue today to prepare for the expected icy weather conditions on the roadways,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien told ARLnow.com Friday morning.
“Due to the low confidence of this forecast, we are still analyzing the level of response that will be required” on Saturday, O’Brien continued. “A determination of resource levels and time of activation will be made this afternoon.”
VDOT, meanwhile, is encouraging drivers to stay off the roads in Northern Virginia on Saturday.
Virginia Department of Transportation and contract crews are preparing for plummeting temperatures and a gamut of winter weather forecast for northern Virginia this weekend, from early Saturday morning through Sunday morning.
Drivers are asked to monitor weather reports for the latest updates to avoid being on the road during periods of limited visibility or icy conditions. Stay off roads Saturday or delay trips until Sunday if possible, to avoid being caught in deteriorating conditions as weather transitions between snow, sleet and freezing rain through the day.
Crews began pretreating roads yesterday and will be staged roadside in the region by 10 p.m. tonight. Throughout Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington* counties (*Arlington maintains own secondary roads) crews treat about 5,200 lane miles of interstates and other high-volume roads with liquid magnesium chloride or brine when conditions allow for winter weather. Learn more about northern Virginia’s snow preparations.
Why does VDOT ask drivers to stay home?
- Visibility will be limited during periods of snow.
- Freezing rain causes an ice glaze that is difficult to see. Black ice often looks like pavement that is simply wet, making it extremely hazardous for driving or walking.
- Four-wheel drive vehicles cannot stop any better than two-wheel drive vehicles on ice.
It could be deja vu if the weather does trend toward more freezing rain. Icy weather caused a number of crashes and other problems on the roads in Arlington less than a month ago, on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Murphy Apologizes for Snowy School Opening — Arlington Public Schools superintendent Patrick Murphy has personally apologized for the unpopular decision to open schools on time yesterday, in the midst of a snow storm. Murphy said APS, like other local school systems that also opened on time, had to make a decision early in the morning, when the forecast still called for less snow. “Once that decision is made, we are kind of locked in,” said Murphy. [InsideNova]
Salt Truck Slides Down Hill — The refreeze may have claimed a salt truck last night. A reader spotted a salt truck being pulled out of a ditch on N. Roosevelt Street. [Twitter]
Crystal City Profiled — As part of its ongoing “Where We Live” series, the Washington Post has profiled Crystal City, which the paper says is “not just underground anymore.” The neighborhood is noted for being convenient to various forms of transportation and having a very low crime rate. [Washington Post]
Remembering Kathryn Stone — Kathryn Stone, a “legendary figure in the history of Arlington County and the Commonwealth,” is remembered for her role in advancing the role of women in government. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Coincidentally, Arlington County started its annual snow training this week. Workers have been hooking up trucks, doing some trial runs and making sure all equipment is ready for the season.
Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau Chief Operating Engineer Dave Hundelt said, “Conveniently we get a random forecast for flurries or light rain/snow and overnight temps right near freezing for this weekend.”
Hundelt says Arlington doesn’t plan on mobilizing its plow or salting teams this weekend because the pavement temperatures will remain well above freezing. That prevents any precipitation from sticking to the ground or causing major driving issues. However, if the forecast changes and conditions worsen, crews could be expected to mobilize.
Currently, Arlington is not included in the winter storm watches or warnings issued by the National Weather Service for many surrounding counties. Although that could change, right now there is only a chance for a light snow shower or a rain/snow mix around here. Due to the uncertainty of the storm, most weather experts are putting the chances of snow on Saturday around 50-50.
Fall snowstorms are worrisome because trees haven’t yet shed all their leaves, making the branches heavy and susceptible to snapping off as a result of accumulation. This traditionally makes autumn snow more dangerous than winter storms.
The last time the metro area experienced a significant snowstorm in October was back on October 10, 1979.
Police are urgently calling in salt trucks to the Arlington Forest neighborhood, where a number of cars have been sliding down a steep hill on North Edison Street.
Cops are starting to block off access to the road in the area of Carlin Springs Road and North Emerson Street. They’re reporting on the radio that the street is coated with ice.
At least two cars are reported to have been involved in a collision, and at least one county vehicle is stuck at the bottom of the hill.
Update at 9:55 a.m. — Dangerous, icy conditions are also being reported in the area of South Hayes Street and Fort Scott Drive in Aurora Hills.
WMATA has announced that aboveground Metrorail service will shut down when snow accumulation reaches eight inches, as it did on Dec. 19. Don’t try to use Metrorail when the accumulation totals are nearing 8″ — there’s a real likelihood of the system shutting down as you’re in transit, stranding you halfway to your destination.
Some hardy souls may try to drive this weekend, despite pleas from local governments for drivers to stay off the road. If you absolutely, positively must drive, you’re likely to encounter a few salt trucks along the way. For many drivers, the exact rules of engagement around slow-moving salt trucks is unclear. Do you pass? How close to you get? To help shed some light, here are some salt truck safety tips, as emailed to arlnow.com from the county’s Department of Environmental Services:
Snow Operations Tips: Roadway Safety
- If you are behind a snow plow, stay at least 100 feet back to allow the truck adequate room to maneuver and see you in the rearview and side mirrors.
- Do not attempt to pass snow plows working in tandem on major roadways. Working together in a staggered pattern allows the plows to quickly clear more of the roadway.
- A snowplow needs a minimum roadway width of 15 feet to maneuver safely, and on many streets a snowplow cannot operate when cars are parked on both sides of the street.
- If you see a plow on a narrow, two-way road, consider an alternate route or wait for the plow to pass to ensure that both vehicles can safely navigate the road.
- Prior to a storm, work with neighbors to move as many cars off the street and into garages or driveways. Park all remaining vehicles on one side of the street – the ODD numbered side, if possible. With fewer parked cars, streets can be cleared more completely, safely and quickly. Your car is also less likely to be covered with salt and sand.
- Use extra caution when driving during, and shortly after, winter weather events. Roads can remain slippery for some time after trucks have plowed and treated them, especially when the temperatures remain low.