ITHACA, N.Y. — If you had to drive around the city of Ithaca this morning, you probably had a really bad experience. But why was traffic such a nightmare when less than an inch of snow reportedly fell?

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There’s a one-word answer: Timing.

Before 7 a.m., the roads were just wet from rainfall over the weekend. But around 7 a.m., more snow started to fall.

Ray Benjamin, assistant superintendent of streets and facilities, said that snow melted onto the road — which was warm after several days’ high temperatures near 50 degrees — and then quickly froze in the early morning low temperatures.

Before the roads could be salted, Benjamin said morning commuters began driving, compressing the loose snow onto the ice. This created the hazardous, slippery driving conditions Monday morning.

“It was just the timing of the snow storm. We couldn’t have gotten in front of it,” he said.

Related: Arctic blast brings winter back to Ithaca in full force

Traffic on the hills coming into town was especially bad, he said, because once vehicle were stuck, salt trucks couldn’t fit through them to quickly get at the roads.

“East Hill is particularly more treacherous in the morning because that’s the last place the sun hits,”  Benjamin said, adding that most of the ice easily melts once the sun warms it up.

He said other roadways, such as Route 96 and 79 were also severely impacted by the storm and several accidents were reported.

Benjamin said that in most cases, roads are cleared by the time morning commuters hit the road. But as the temperatures drop, he recommends that people leave early to get to work or school in time, just in case snow and ice delay traffic.

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Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.