By Michael S. Rosenwald and Rachel Weiner December 17
Four people were killed and dozens more were injured in vehicle wrecks across the Washington region early Saturday as winter’s first blast of precipitation covered the area in a sheet of ice, crippling roadways and grounding flights at local airports.
Though Maryland and Virginia transportation crews pre-treated highways and major roadways to thwart icing, officials said a steady stream of freezing rain fell longer than expected, outlasting the salt and other treatments applied to roads before and during the storm.
Stretches of the Beltway and Interstate 95 were closed for hours.
“After a while the salt becomes diluted,” said Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. “People travel too fast for the conditions, and once you lose control, that’s it.”
Gischlar said the weather also stayed cooler longer than expected, making conditions more challenging. Rather than freezing rain giving way to regular rain that would melt the ice, he said, “it matured into a full-fledged ice storm.”