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Commute from hell: A personal account

Friday - 1/28/2011, 10:32am  ET

Read your stories from Wednesday's marathon commute.

Darci Marchese, wtop.com

WASHINGTON...? -- Let's see. How many places can you drive to in 8 1/2 hours? How about from Northwest D.C. to Charles County, Md.?

My adventure -- like so many others -- began at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon. I thought I'd beat the storm and get home before the big snow. So I hopped in my Ford Escape, hoping to be home in a couple of hours.

First the sleet came and roads quickly got slick. But then it was like someone turned a switch and thick snow began to fall from the sky. Massachusetts Avenue soon became gridlocked with drivers blocking intersections, honking wildly at each other. It took about an hour to travel just one block, toward the 3rd Street Tunnel.

That's when I couldn't believe my eyes. I saw a car drive on the sidewalk on New York Avenue. What the driver was thinking, I have no idea.

It took about an hour and a half to get through the tunnel. On a non-rush commute it takes minutes to travel through. A bit heavier during the afternoon rush. But an hour and a half, really?

Things soon got worse when I got out of the covered tunnel. The Southeast/Southwest Freeway was extremely slippery with snow still gushing from the sky. Drivers were fish-tailing here and there. Others who couldn't make it up the slight incline put their flashers on, blocking traffic.

Meanwhile, the hours ticked on.

Interstate 295 turned into a miserable parking lot. Thousands of cars were bumper to bumper barely moving. I could only keep my foot on the brake and release. Foot on the brake and release. This lasted for about two hours.

Then the glide turned into a dead stop. Nobody knew why. We just sat there.. and sat... and sat.

The worse part was not knowing what was ahead. Was it a major crash? Was traffic stopped for the plows? Nobody knew.

I finally found out the answer when I could see Route 210. It was a complete disaster. Cars were abandoned all over. Other owners were outside their cars, pushing their heavy cars up the hill, only for them to slide right back down. It looked as if a wall of snow came crashing down onto 210 just in Prince George's County.

Nobody was moving. Nobody would getting through any time soon.

Luckily, I know my way around the National Harbor. So I exited onto Harborview Drive. It was as icy and slippery as you could imagine. Cars were stuck, wheels churning in the snow and ice. Luckily my vehicle kept moving.

I fish tailed, barely made it up another hill but I pressed on ever so slowly on Oxon Hill Road. The plows hadn't come yet. The roads were in horrible condition.

I had planned on stopping for a much-needed potty break and possibly a hamburger. But I was so afraid and shaken at this point, that I had to press on.

I slipped and slided but stayed on the road. When I returned to Route 210, lanes would disappear at a moment's notice. And yes, drivers were driving much, much too fast for the conditions.

When I crossed into Charles County, things did not improve. A two-lane road was reduced to a half lane and I found myself driving over the double yellow line, praying no car would come in the opposite direction. Finally I saw a plow and let me tell you, I moved over for him!

When I put my vehicle in park in my driveway, I didn't know whether to shout or cry. I was shaking inside and could no longer feel my feet. They were numb. My right leg was also getting numb from holding the brake down for essentially a work day.

I come away with several thoughts. I'll never try to beat snow again. I'll never leave when tens of thousands of other drivers are leaving. And I truly fear being in D.C. when a disaster or emergency occurs. How would I get home? I hope I'll never have to find out.

Where could you have driven in the time it took you to get home on Wednesday? Check out WTOP's fantasy map to see what could have been:

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