Ice turns rush hour into crush hour, closes highways

January 09, 1991|By Lynda Robinsonand Susan Schoenberger

A nasty mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow turned many Maryland roads into icy sliding boards last night, causing hundreds of accidents, two of them fatal, and shutting sections of Interstate 95, the Baltimore Beltway and the Jones Falls Expressway.

State police closed northbound I-95 at the Interstate 195 overpass in Baltimore County after more than a dozen cars collided on the highway at 6:26 p.m. Police detoured traffic to Route 100 while they cleared the cars and salted the road.

Baltimore police shut the Jones Falls Expresswaysouth of Guilford Avenue at 7 p.m. to prevent more accidents on the icy road. Road crews were sent to salt the road, which had been reopened by 10 p.m.

Sections of the Baltimore Beltway also were closed last night as state police tried to clear the roads for salt trucks.

Hardest hit was the Beltway's intersection with U.S. 40, where multicar accidents tied up the inner and outer loops about 7:30 p.m., state police said. A 12-car pileup on the outer loop, a 10-car pileup on the inner loop and a six-car pileup on one of the ramps created havoc for drivers and rescue workers.

"It looked like bumper cars," said Chuck Jackson, state police spokesman. "It just seemed to break loose shortly after 7 p.m."

None of the pileups resulted in serious injuries, but two people died in other accidents on icy roads yesterday evening.

A Woodlawn man was killed when he hit a patch of ice in the 6100 block of Johnnycake Road about 7:30 p.m. The man, whose identity was being confirmed by police last night, was driving east on Johnnycake Road when he lost control of the car, crossed the median and was hit by a westbound car, police said. No further details were available.

In Prince George's County, a 40-year-old woman died in a three-car accident at 5:25 p.m. Police said Lykema Sandra Owens of the 9200 block of Loughran Road in Oxon Hill was driving north on Indian Head Highway at Farmington Road when she lost control on an icy bridge.

Ms. Owens hit a guardrail and then spun across the road into the southbound lane, where her car was hit by a Ford van. Another car then hit the van. Ms. Owens was pronounced dead at Southern Maryland Hospital in Clinton, police said. No one else was injured seriously.

In another accident yesterday morning caused by slick roads, a 16-year-old Pasadena youth was killed on Poplar Ridge Road.

A jeep driven by Frank Martin Anson, 48, of the 2100block of Poplar Ridge Road, skidded on an icy road about 7:30 a.m. and hit Mark E. Keefe of the 1800 block of Poplar Ridge Road, who was walking to school. The junior at Chesapeake High School was pronounced dead at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at 9:30 a.m.

Crews worked through the night to salt major highways, but motorists can expect slick conditions on most secondary roads this morning.

"We don't have anything that's safe to drive at the speed limit right now," said a state police officer in Frederick late last night. Police handled more than 100 accidents, though most were cars veering off roads and into ditches or fender-benders with no serious injuries.

Conditions should improve by this afternoon as temperatures rise to the high 40s, forecasters said.

Freezing rain hit suburban Washington about 5 p.m. yesterday, resulting in dozens of fender-benders in Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties.

State police in Glen Burnie said that the accidents were "too numerous to count." About 1,700 households and businesses were without power in Anne Arundel County after cars hit utility poles, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials said.

Anne Arundel County schools will begin two hours late today and kindergarten classes were canceled.

In College Park, ice caused a seven-car accident on U.S. 50, state police said. No one was seriously injured, but the road was closed for several hours.

A tractor-trailer also jackknifed on I-95 near Interstate 495, and the Capital Beltway ramp to I-95 was closed for three hours.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport closed two of its major runways from 6:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and applied de-icing chemicals.

Howard County police struggled with more than 50 accidents between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and then experienced a dramatic drop in calls as people got off the roads.

Weather forecasters had expected 2 to 4 inches of snow yesterday afternoon and evening, but a low-pressure system from the Southwest brought higher temperatures, said Amet Figueroa, a forecaster for the National Weather Service.

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