Commuters were forced onto side roads last night as icy roads caused mile-long backups on major roads and scores of minor traffic accidents, and prompted the closing of some bridges, overpasses and highways, authorities said.
Authorities blamed many of the accidents on motorists who drove too fast in icy conditions.
Yesterday's light snow, which began about 6 p.m., became dangerous when temperatures dipped into the 20s after 8 p.m., said Chris Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.
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"The cold air has really moved in, and there's been a quick drop in temperature," said Strong. He said the temperature fell from 38 at 4 p.m. to 28 four hours later. "The roads are icing over quickly. It's making for really lousy road conditions," he said.
Strong said the precipitation would end during the night and that today's forecast was for sunny skies and a high of 30.
"It'll be a cold, blustery winter day," he said. "It'll be our first real January kind of day, but at least people can look forward to the sun."
Last night's taste of wintry weather caused many fender-benders but no major injuries, authorities reported.
"It's a minor weather event that is being made serious by motorists not driving carefully," said Kurt Kocher, acting chief of information services for the Baltimore Department of Public Works.
The accidents included:
A six-car accident on an icy overpass at southbound Interstate and the Baltimore Beltway near Catonsville that caused a mile-long backup. Numerous accidents were reported on Interstates 395 and 95 in the Baltimore area.
A jackknifed tractor-trailer on the outer loop of the Beltway near Edmondson Avenue, causing a backup to Security Boulevard.
Numerous accidents in Anne Arundel County because of ice on Interstate 695 and Route 648 in Linthicum and along sections of Interstate 97.
A five-car accident on the Beltway near Perring Parkway in the Carney area. Baltimore County police said there were no injuries.
A collision between a car and a tractor-trailer about 7: 25 p.m. on a snowy road in Howard County just west of the Patapsco River near the Baltimore County line that injured two people. They were trapped for several minutes before firefighters freed them and took them to St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore with injuries that were not life-threatening.
About two dozen accidents reported by state police in Carroll County, most of them in the Westminster area. Police blamed the accidents on poor driving conditions and reported no serious injuries. The snow emergency plan went into effect in the county at 8 p.m.
A multicar accident in White Oak, in Montgomery County, that resulted from ice on the U.S. 29 bridge.
Baltimore police closed the Hanover Street Bridge about 8: 30 p.m. because of three accidents involving seven cars that resulted in at least one injury. The bridge was heavily salted and reopened about an hour later.
The outer loop of the Beltway near Loch Raven Boulevard was temporarily closed just before 9 p.m. because of the ice. Within 30 minutes, State Highway Administration trucks had salted the roads.
Accidents continued well into the night, but Baltimore public works officials said driving conditions were expected to improve overnight as 40 trucks spread salt on main thoroughfares. Kocher said 70 percent of city streets had been salted by 10 p.m.
By 10 p.m., 160 government vehicles and private contractors in Baltimore County had salted roads, mostly in the western and northern sections from Hereford to Catonsville, said Gail Courtney, assistant chief of the county's bureau of highways.
Pub Date: 12/20/96