A late-afternoon ice storm yesterday left dozens of wrecked cars littered along major roads and brought traffic on the highways to a standstill, leaving commuters bumper-to-bumper for hours.
In Harford County, 23 people were injured in an accident involving a Harford Transit bus and several cars on Route 22 in Churchville about 4:30 p.m., said Sgt. Christina Presberry, spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office. The victims, all with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, were taken to Upper Chesapeake and Harford Memorial hospitals.
The weather - so bad that for the first time in memory polls were kept open an extra 90 minutes to allow people more time to vote - also contributed to a pileup in Prince George's County, where as many as 20 vehicles were involved in a crash on the ramp carrying Route 210 over the Capital Beltway.
Major temporary road closures in the area included Interstate 95 at Route 32, which was closed in both directions; U.S. 50 westbound over the Severn River bridge, where a tractor-trailer had jackknifed; and the Baltimore Beltway at Route 702.
Late last night, David Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said all major highways were open.
Ice on the eastbound and westbound spans of the Bay Bridge was blamed for several accidents that delayed traffic for nearly an hour, said Cpl. Jonathan Green, spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.
"There were delays," he said, "but the bridges never closed." No serious injuries were reported.
At 1:30 p.m., six vehicles collided on the eastbound span, and it was 40 minutes before the vehicles were removed and road crews spread salt on the road, he said. Traffic was backed up for more than two miles, he said.
Icy roadways on the Severn River Bridge (U.S. 50) outside Annapolis caused several collisions, including the jackknifing of a tractor-trailer on the westbound span about 4:15 p.m.
Buck said the jackknifed tractor-trailer caused traffic to be detoured until shortly before 8 p.m.
"Our own vehicles couldn't get there because of backed-up traffic, so we had to take side roads, which took much longer to reach the scenes," he said.
Buck said that SHA crews were out salting major roadways, overpasses and eventually secondary roads throughout the state. "We salt, and salt, and salt," he said.
Buck said the ice storm brought out 1,500 road vehicles, but most were used west of the Chesapeake Bay. East of the bay, he said, road conditions were not as bad.
State police reported many accidents on major highways but none resulting in major injuries.
Baltimore County police said two tractor-trailers collided on the Baltimore Beltway near North Point Boulevard, which tied up traffic.
Baltimore City police said the freezing rain and cold road surfaces caused too many accidents to detail. Some were multiple-vehicle incidents on the Beltway, Interstate 83 and other major arteries leading into and out of the city, but no serious injuries were reported.
Chief Kevin Cartwright, spokesman for the city Fire Department, said that from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. the Fire Department put into effect its "critical alert status," meaning that extra ambulances and crews were being dispatched. The alert was lifted at 4:30 p.m., then restarted at 5:30 p.m. for rush hour.
In Harford County, ambulances were staged at key spots, several near I-95, so emergency workers could respond quickly to accidents, said Sue Collins, spokeswoman for the county's Emergency Operations Center.
For motorists, the storm brought harrowing moments and frustration.
Stephanie Miller, 41, had a heart-pounding close call as she navigated an overpass off I-695 to eastbound I-70 on her way home to Dickeyville in West Baltimore.
When she rounded a curve on the exit ramp, a car that had apparently spun out was pointed straight at her. With the road like ice, Miller managed to steer between the car and a guardrail. As she got off the overpass, she noticed two police cars and six other vehicles stuck in a median.
On I-95, three late-evening crashes in the southbound lane between routes 32 and 216 brought traffic to a complete stop for about 30 minutes, witnesses said. One tractor-trailer jackknifed at a trailer stop, according to one driver at the scene.
In Annapolis, exhaust fumes clouded the West Street corridor as long lines of traffic idled, futilely trying to make headway. All those cars, buses and trucks could do was start and stop - more of the latter than the former.
With the roads jammed, some drivers simply pulled off and sought refuge.
Stan and Joe's Saloon had a nearly 45-minute wait for dinner while customers stood two-deep at the bar. Joe McGovern, one of the owners, said his normal 20-minute drive to the restaurant took him nearly two hours, and he arrived to "a packed house."
"I think all these people are numb," said Dean Dolsen, 42, a doorman at Stan and Joe's.
"Everyone is stalemated on their travel plans," he said. "Those from Ellicott City, Baltimore and Severna Park - no one can go anywhere."
Sun reporters Mary Gail Hare, Anica Butler and Phillip McGowan, and the Associated Press contributed to this article.