Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Snow day in photos

It's a new year and the first work week of 2015, and we also got some significant snow here in Four Corners.

Woodmoor Shopping Center in the snow around 9:15.  Photo by the author.

The snow began falling overnight during the early morning hours, and it continued to fall until around 10 AM.  There appeared to be about 3-4 inches by the time it let up, more than enough to cuase serious problems on the roads.  Both University Blvd and Colesville Road were covered in snow and slush, which significantly slowed traffic.

University Boulevard at Saint Lawrence Drive.  Photo by the author.




Initial predictions of a dusting or light snowfall caused many to drive to work as if it was any other day, but by the morning rush hour, even the main roads had received little attention.  The driving surface on MD 193, US 29, and I-495 was slushy at best, and some lanes were impassable due to snow drifts from cursory plowing earlier in the morning.  The high level of vehicles on the road paired with the bad conditions created significant traffic delays.    

Westbound  Beltway traffic.  No one is in the right lane because it became the de facto merge lane for traffic entering I-495 from southbound Colesville Road.  

I walked up to the intersection around 9 AM, and it looked like University and Colesville had only been plowed once since the snow started falling.  University Boulevard was functioning as a 4 lane road instead of a 6 lane road because the edges of the road surface were not clear.  Many drivers  were also ignoring rules of the road, such as red lights, causing gridlock at the intersection for multiple light cycles.  

Gridlock at the intersection around 9:30.  Photo by the author.

The heavy traffic and poor road conditions also affected emergency vehicles responding through the area.  In the video below, and ambulance transporting a patient to Holy Cross tries to navigate the traffic jam.  In the second video, a fire engine drives the wrong way on Colesville Road to avoid the backup.      

     






The buses we're up and running despite the snow, but there were significant service delays and reductions.  One reader reported that the C buses were running very infrequently, which I can confirm, since I only saw one C4 go by when I was up at the intersection for an hour.  The buses on Colesville Road were a bit more frequent, but there were way more "not in service" buses passing by than in service ones, which I found a bit confusing.

A Ride On #9 headed to Wheaton. 

By about 10:30, I saw multiple SHA and MCDOT plows working the main roads and side streets.  The road conditions began to improve pretty quickly by that point, and traffic began to flow better as all lanes were cleared.  Delays remained late into the morning, but most main roads were in decent shape by 11.  The SHA may be criticized for not getting the roads cleared sooner, but I think they and MCDOT did a pretty good job, considering the unusually cold temperatures (which make pre-treatment far less effective) and the fact that this storm caught people a bit off-guard.

An MCDOT plow on Williambsurg Drive.  Photo by the author.

While the roads are generally clear or getting cleared, almost all of the sidewalks remain untouched, making them difficult and uncomfortable to use.

However, when I first walked up to intersection around 9, a good Samaritan had shoveled the sidewalk along University Boulevard between Williamsburg and Saint Lawrence (making the sidewalk there super easy to walk down).  Unfortunately, by 11, multiple plow passes in the adjacent travel lanes had left mounds of snow on the formerly cleared sidewalk.  This is a reason why buffered sidewalks are so important--even a 4 foot wide grass strip between the sidewalk and the curb can prevent occurrences like this--but no one considered pedestrian convenience when this road was designed 60 years ago.

To whoever cleared that sidewalk: thank you for your efforts, and I'm sorry your hard work was undone by poor 1950's era road design.

Woodmoor sign at Williamburg and University.  Photo by the author.

On a happier note, the snow left the neighborhood looking like a snow globe, and kids got a day off school.  Below are some pictures of the snow in Woodmoor and down in Northwest Branch.


Williamsburg Drive.

Entrance to the woods at Big Rock.

  The trail and hillsides.

The creek near the Beltway bridge.

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