The light accumulation of snow Friday afternoon that began before the start of rush hour was enough to turn the Google traffic map into a tangle of bright red and orange, meaning there was a backup on just about every major thoroughfare from Washington through Baltimore, and up a good portion of the East Coast.
“When the map looks like Christmas colors it’s not good,” said Dan Hofmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, who reported that the region got an average of 1 to 2 inches of snow. “Today seemed to flip the scenario from last weekend when the snow was mostly on the grass and not on the road. Today, it seemed that it was light enough that you still saw the grass but the roads were completely covered.”
Hofmann said temperatures below freezing overnight would keep the roads slick, but a warm-up over the weekend with expected highs in the mid- to-upper 40s would melt the ice and snow. The temperatures are expected to reach into the 50s early next week, he said.
John Schofield, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said this is how winters in Maryland go. He said the agency had pre-treated roads and would continue monitoring and treating them overnight, but he said motorists had a responsibility to slow down, use headlights and leave space between vehicles.
Area schools announced early dismissals on news of expected snow accumulation in the afternoon, sending parents home from work early and moving the traditional rush hour up by a few hours.
Social media sites were populated with testimonials from motorists about hours-long commutes home for much of Friday. There were also regular reports from emergency service agencies from many area jurisdictions with messages such as “car v bus,” “crash with injury” and “emergency services on the scene.”
Highway crews pre-treated roads Friday morning before the snow moved in, and highway workers also relied on salt that remained on the roads after snow fell overnight Wednesday into Thursday. Pavement temperatures were at or close to the freezing mark during the afternoon.
Schofield said the warming temperatures over the weekend would give crews and residents a break. He said by Friday evening, many roads had emptied out of commuters and were looking pretty good.
That traffic map had turned mostly green by late evening, indicating the major roads were wide open.
“I just went from BWI to Annapolis on I-97 and it looked pretty darn good,” Schofield said. “I don’t think it ended up as bad as it could have been. ...And it’s supposed to warm up and stay warm.”