AAA rescue call volume totals less than 50 during storm

AAA tow trucks were less busy than usual during Wednesday's storm. Photo: ABC7

The roads in and around the Washington area generally stayed open and clear throughout Wednesday's snow storm, but for some drivers, the rough weather was too much to handle.

That's when AAA tow truck drivers like James Essex jumps into action, trading his neon safety jacking into a roadside hero's cape.

It may sounds like bravado, until you consider what the Capital Beltway, Interstate 95 and many other highways looked like the last time a big storm hit D.C.; the 2011 "Commuteageddon" stranded drivers on local roads for up to 14 hours.

"Our job is to go out there and rescue," Essex said. "People hitting curbs with busted up tires, accidents and spinning out."

Wednesday's heavy, wet snow turned to slush quickly on Interstate 395 in Northern Virginia, and by midday, the wind pushed the snow sideways. That circumstance turned unlucky for Jerry and Betsy Dougherty, a Gettysburg, Pa. couple that became one of AAA's 26 calls for service.

Essex believes that the Dougherty's Hyundai struck an industrial third wheel, disabling their car and stalling their vacation.

"It looked to me like a piece of ice," Jerry said. "When I hit it, it made a loud noise. I knew it wasn't ice."

Remarkably, AAA doesn't expect rescue calls due to the storm to exceed 50. That's in stark contrast to the two days before this storm, when calls totalled 500 under sunny skies.