The white stuff started falling shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday, the first snowfall of the season for the National Capital Area.
Snow doesn’t come often to the Washington area and the lack of experience of drivers appears quickly. Even four-wheel drive vehicles end up in ditches.
“It’s amazing how quickly people forget,” says one tow truck driver as he answers his 20th call before daylight. “They can’t drive fast on this stuff. It’s nuts.”
Schools in most of the jurisdictions in and around Washington cancelled classes early. A notable exception was Washington City Schools, which announced all morning they would be opened then changed their minds and closed just before school was due to start at 8:45 a.m. Many students were already on their way.
Typical,” said Anne Lawson, who had just dropped her daughter off for school and then had to fight traffic to get back and pick her up. “As usual, the idiots are in charge.”
“Hospitals sent out calls for those with 4-wheel-drive vehicles to ferry staff to work. Police urged those who didn’t have to be on the roads to just stay home and watch the white stuff out the window.
As the morning progressed, forecasters increased their estimates of the total accumulation. First it would be 2-4 inches, then 4-8 inches, then 6-10 inches.
“Hell, they don’t know,” said one Virginia State Trooper working an accident on Interstate 395. “Nobody knows.”
Snow plows tried to keep up with the rapidly falling snow but cold temperatures and freezing rain turned bridges into sheets of ice.
By mid-morning, police were working hundreds of accidents, ranging from fender benders to overturned 18-wheelers that blocked roads. Virginia Rte. 123 near Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, one of the busiest roads in the region, was closed, clogged by stuck cars.
“Drivers who did venture out found it slow going. Those with SUVs couldn’t get around the two-wheel drive vehicles stuck on hills and slick bridges.
People drive stupid,” said Dan Longley who was still trying to get to his job in the district. “These people will never last up north where I’m from.”