Some major thoroughfares, ramps and secondary roads were converted into treacherous driving and walking adventures today as a freezing rain spread a thin, icy glaze in the Baltimore metropolitan area, causing countless accidents and late school openings.
Last night, when the storm first started, two motorists were killed in weather-related crashes.
"It's treacherous," said Sgt. R. Waters at the Bel Air barracks of the State Police. "Road crews were out all night spreading salt. It melted for a few minutes, then froze right up again."
State Police closed a portion of Interstate 795, the Northwest Expressway, at 5 a.m. after a tractor-trailer carrying wood chips overturned just south of Md. 140 at Reisterstown. Northbound traffic was rerouted to Franklin Boulevard and Md. 140.
Accidents involving cars and other tractor-trailers temporarily closed the northbound Jones Falls Expressway south of Cold Spring Lane; the 28th Street bridge; a ramp at Northern Parkway and Perring Parkway in the city; and Md. 648 at the Beltway in Anne Arundel County after two vehicles slid out of control and crashed.
The 41st Street bridge over the JFX was said to be a "solid sheet of ice" and also was closed.
Public schools in Anne Arundel, Howard and Cecil counties opened two hours late because of the icy conditions and schools in Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford and Montgomery counties were closed for the day. Students in Kent County were told to report 90 minutes late.
The National Weather Service said temperatures were expected to warm up by midafternoon, when the mercury was to creep into the mid- to upper 30s. Temperatures are to drop into the 20s tonight, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s anticipated tomorrow.
When the freezing rain and sleet started falling last evening, parts of area interstates and secondary roads were closed after numerous crashes, both major and minor.
One of the two fatal accidents was in Baltimore County; the other was in Prince George's County.
The most recent weather-related traffic death was that of Gerald Milton Patterson, 46, of the 6000 block of Gwynn Oak Ave. in Woodlawn. Baltimore County police said he was driving his Mazda east in the 6100 block of Johnnycake Road around 7:30 p.m. when the vehicle skidded on a patch of ice.
Police said the car crossed over and into the westbound lane and struck a car.
Police said a metal object in Patterson's car broke loose on impact and pierced the driver's heart. Patterson was pronounced dead at the scene.
A spokesman for the county Fire Department said the occupants of the other car, Jatimeter and Sonja Dua, whose addresses were not available, were taken by ambulance to St. Agnes Hospital.
The Prince George's County fatality involved three cars and claimed the life of an Oxon Hill woman.
Police said Lykema Sandra Owens, 40, was driving north on Indian Head Highway about 5:30 p.m. and was crossing an ice-covered bridge near Farmington Road when the car went out of control, struck a guardrail and bounced off.
Police said the car then entered the southbound lane and struck a van. A third car then struck the van.
Police said Owens was rushed by ambulance to Southern Maryland Hospital in Clinton, where she died.
The occupants of the other two vehicles received minor injuries.
The freezing rain played havoc for a few hours last night, particularly around the Baltimore Beltway, as numerous pileups occured when cars slid into each other.
State Police and local police closed sections of the Beltway and various interstates when the roads glazed over with ice.
Throughout the night, area road crews continued spreading salt on the roadways.
The National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport said a low pressure area from the south brought with it higher temperatures and freezing rain instead of the predicted 2 to 4 inches of snow.
Many motorists, no doubt, would have preferred the snow rather than the ice.
In Baltimore, a freezing rain and several multiple-vehicle accidents around 7 p.m. forced the closing of both the northbound and southbound lanes of the Jones Falls Expressway south of the Guilford Avenue overpass.
City police responded to the accidents and signaled oncoming vehicles onto the nearest exit ramp and away from the accidents.
By 10 p.m., the entire Jones Falls Expressway was reopened to traffic.
Where driving conditions required it, area police were ordered to remain at fixed positions and to respond only to emergency calls.
The interchange of the Beltway and U.S. 40 at Catonsville were closed for about an hour after three multiple car pileups, said State Police spokesman Chuck Jackson. Most of the accidents were fender-benders as cars and trucks failed to get traction on icy roads, he said.
"One motorist told us it was like riding on a roller coaster," Jackson said.
"The whole road is a sheet of ice," Baltimore County Cpl. Thomas McCreer said. All the roads were reopened about an hour after the accidents around 7:30 p.m., Jackson said.