Small amounts of winter precipitation falling on sub-freezing road surfaces during rush-hours can produce very long, stressful commutes. For example, January 20, 2016, where one inch of snow in Washington D.C. left thousands stranded in their cars because of skating-rink-like road conditions. This neglected minor event turned into a commuting disaster. Frequently, these are the most challenging types of events for National Weather Service forecasters to predict.
In response to this challenge, National Weather Service offices will issue a new statement called “Potential Winter Commuting Hazard,” about a day in advance to make people aware of the potential for winter weather events that could adversely impact commuting.
During the off-season, the Weather Service heard from road crews that they require 24 hours’ notice to effectively treat surfaces before light snow and ice on frozen pavement. The “Potential Winter Weather Hazard” statement is the Weather Service’s response to this need.
Here is an example of what the message will look like:
There is a POSSIBILITY for icy commuting conditions Tuesday morning. A period of snow is POSSIBLE (30 percent) across the Washington metro area during rush hour, with up to an inch of snow accumulation possible on subfreezing roads.
If this threat does materialize during Tuesday morning rush-hour, untreated roads would turn icy. This could lead to hazardous commuting conditions, with extensive delays.
The most important action at this point is to stay informed. Know what you would do if this threat materializes, and plan accordingly. Stay tuned for updates and possible winter weather advisories.
For more on this new statement, watch the video below.