Ice causes fatality on I-95 Car, tractor-trailer collide near Washington Boulevard

December 28, 1992|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,Staff Writer

Freezing rain that fell early today throughout the metropolita area proved fatal when a car and a tractor-trailer collided on ice-covered northbound Interstate 95 near Washington Boulevard in Southwest Baltimore, killing at least one person.

Sgt. Arnold Street of the Toll Facilities Police at the Fort McHenry Tunnel said the icy roadway contributed to the 4 a.m. accident. Sergeant Street said police believe the victim was an occupant of the car, but details were not immediately available.

The wreckage tied up early morning traffic that was detoured away from the scene, he 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 lTC 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.

City police said they found getting to scenes of blocked traffic and minor accidents almost impossible.

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. Area police were told to maintain fixed positions unless responding to emergencies.

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.

Weather forecaster Dick Diener said conditions were not expected to improve until later today.

Mr. 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 Interstate 795 were closed to traffic at the Beltway.

Westbound Beltway traffic at Green Spring Avenue was backed-up because of vehicles skidding on the ice. Several trucks headed east on I-695 collided on the incline before Cromwell Bridge Road, causing its closing until salt and cinder trucks arrived. And Reisterstown Road, from the Beltway west, was moving at a snail's pace.

* In Anne Arundel County, police reported widespread accidents. Most of I-295 and southbound I-95 were closed, police said.

A 10-car accident was reported at I-295 and Dorsey Road, resulting in damaged vehicles and frazzled nerves. Ice-covered bridges in Magothy Beach and Stoney Creek made driving impossible.

One-quarter-inch-thick ice was reported on Route 3 near Route 100, causing many spin-out accidents.

Southbound I-95 traffic from I-395 was stalled for more than an hour by several cars that went out of control, ending up on the shoulders.

At Route 100 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, at least a dozen cars blocked the road as ice made driving nearly impossible.

* In Howard County, both lanes of I-95 were closed at the Baltimore County line, and ice delayed or stopped traffic for hours and caused several minor accidents near the Route 32 exit off I-95.

* In Harford County, state police at the Bel Air barracks said nearly every road was nearly impassable and "everything was iced-up."

* In Carroll County, state police at the Westminster barracks reported freezing rain, but said roads were only wet and passable.

Area police said the situation would have been worse if early morning traffic hadn't been light when the roads began to freeze up.

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