Travel headaches instigated by 1st snowfall of 2020 across mid-Atlantic

Brian Lada

The mid-Atlantic was blanketed by the first snow of 2020 on Tuesday, but while some enjoyed the snow-covered scenery, others faced frustration when heading out to navigate snowy roads.

The snow started the day over eastern Kentucky and West Virginia and spread into Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania as Tuesday progressed. This was a far cry from a major winter storm with accumulations generally ranging from 3 to 6 inches, but the fast-moving nature of the storm quickly covered many surfaces in a blanket of powder.

This ended a snow drought for places like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., that had not seen measurable snow since mid-December.

Interstate 81 was one of the major highways across the region that faced weather-related disruptions as the snow fell across Virginia. The northbound lane near mile marker 168, just north of Roanoke, was closed late Tuesday morning following a pileup amid snowy conditions. Two people were taken to area hospitals for injuries, according to Botetourt County Department of Fire and EMS. The accident was cleared and traffic began flowing again by early Tuesday afternoon.

Crews were busy responding to numerous accidents around Roanoke, Botetourt County Department of Fire and EMS reported.

As the snow continued to spread northeastward midday Tuesday, school district and government offices around Washington, D.C., began to announce early dismissals so fewer people were on the roads when the snow arrived during the afternoon.

"All employees MUST DEPART at no later than 1:00 pm at which time FEDERAL OFFICES are CLOSED," the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said in a statement on Tuesday morning.

Federal employees that left their offices early on Tuesday beat the snow, but they didn't beat the crowds with reports of packed trains and buses as thousands of people rushed to leave the nations's capital.

Dozens of flight delays were also reported at Ronald Reagan National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) on Tuesday afternoon as rain quickly switched over to snow in D.C. and Baltimore. BWI picked up 1.5 inches of snow from the event despite the temperature peaking at 47 F before the precipitation arrived. Temperatures plummeted into the lower to middle 30s as the snow began to fall steadily.

By Tuesday night, the swath of snow had reached southeastern New England, with Providence, Rhode Island, recording its first flakes a little after 10 p.m. EST.

After delivering a coating to 1 inch of snow in the Boston area Tuesday night, the storm will exit the coast early Wednesday morning.

Behind the storm, a renewed round of snow showers and snow squalls on Wednesday may deliver additional snow to part of the mid-Atlantic before dry and mild weather builds in by the weekend.