Three people were killed today in auto accidents around th state as a freezing rain converted highways and secondary roadways into treacherous surfaces that caused hundreds of major and minor accidents, area police reported.
In a wild series of crashes on Interstate 95-495 in Prince George's County north of the Suitland Parkway, about 25 vehicles careened out of control and killed two motorists in the process.
According to State Police TFC Brad Harrold of the Forestville barracks, Paul Ricardo Nunnaly, 17, of Washington, and Joanna Jean Hutchinson, 20, of Forestville, were killed shortly after 1:30 a.m.
"There were about five or six separate sequences to the overall accident," Trooper Harrold said. "People spun out of control at exactly the same spot on the roadway and got out of their vehicles. . . . They were hit by the other cars that were sliding."
The freezing rain also caused another accident on northbound I-95 two miles out of the McHenry Tunnel that caused the death of an unidentified 11-month-old from New Jersey.
A spokesman for the Toll Facilities Police said the child was in a car that had spun out of control and hit a guardrail. The child was in the car when a tractor-trailer lost control and hit the vehicle on the side of the road, the spokesman said.
A second person was injured in the crash, which occurred about 4 a.m. The injured person was taken to Francis Scott Key Hospital in uncertain condition. Their identities were not released because next of kin have not been notified.
State and city police were inundated with calls for assistance, but in many cases they could not respond unless injures were involved.
"I lost count long ago," said state police Cpl. William H. Vogt at the Belair barracks in Harford County.
"We've had accidents all over the place, some involving as many as 25 or 30 cars each. . . . Corporal Vogt said accidents were reported on Routes 1 and 40 and many secondary routes in the rural county.
A city police spokesman said "we've had so many bumper
benders we couldn't keep track." Like the state police, city accident investigators were not dispatched because of the extremely hazardous conditions.
Warmer temperatures chased the freezing rain about midmorning, but harried police agencies still were attempting to catch up on calls and paperwork.
Most snow emergency plans were lifted by late morning, police said.
The ice closed sections of nearly every main artery and their ramps across the area, and caused numerous accidents as white-knuckled motorists skidded into other cars, fixed objects and whatever else could stop them. Despite the number of accidents, police reported no other serious injuries.
Snow plans were put in effect between 1 a.m and 2 a.m. in all surrounding counties, as main roads and secondary roads were covered with a thin layer of ice. Area road crews were called out of bed to spread salt or cinders on nearly every interstate and main street.
At 1 a.m., the city had only two trucks spreading salt. Vanessa Pyatt, a Department of Public Works spokeswoman, said that number quickly increased to 105 by 2 a.m. The two-person crews had serviced all the 111 primary routes by 6 a.m., one hour after the city's snow plan went into effect, she said.
Vehicles unable to make it up many interstate ramps were backing down and striking oncoming vehicles, clogging ramps and closing roadways. Several motorists fell while getting out of their cars.
In the suburbs, state road crews responded and were assisting county crews in spreading salt and cinders to ice-covered roadways.
Several police cars were struck at roadblocks created by cars skidding on the ice.
A spokesman for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport said the freezing rain resulted from sub-freezing ground-level air mixing with light rain from an upper-air disturbance extending from southeast Georgia.
Forecaster Dick Diener said 0.02 inches of freezing rain fell between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., before changing to only rain.
At 1 a.m., he said, the temperature was 28 degrees. By 6 a.m., the thermometer had risen to 32 degrees and was inching up a half-degree each hour, Mr. Diener said.
With overnight southerly winds between 15 and 20 mph, the temperature was expected to rise, with a high of 40 degrees forecast.
As main roadways were closed because of icy conditions and vehicles blocking ramps, some motorists found their way by using city streets that were tricky, but not as hazardous. It was slower, but safer.
City police said Interstate 295 in Westport was a sheet of ice at 3 a.m. Exit ramps along I-295 were blocked by numerous accidents. Fire apparatus responding to a two-alarm fire in the 3700 block of Leo St. at 3:30 a.m. had to use caution crossing the ice-covered Hanover Street Bridge.
* In Baltimore County, Interstate 695 was a sheet of ice in many places and both lanes of I-795 were closed to traffic at the Beltway.