Yesterday’s freezing rain claimed at least five lives in our region and caused hundreds of cars to collide – and the danger isn’t over yet. Icy patches remained on roadways, parking lots, and walkways this morning, putting drivers at risk of crashing and pedestrians at risk of slipping and falling on ice. With flooding in nearby areas, including Mount Laurel, even ice that melts during the warmest part of today could refreeze when the temperature drops tonight. Whether you’re driving or walking, use extra caution. By the time you see there’s a dangerous condition, it could be too late.
Through windows and windshields, Sunday’s storm looked like just rain – when in reality, it was freezing rain, the kind that covered roads and walkways in potentially deadly ice. Photo Credit: Flickr (Creative Commons license).
Sunday was a day of massive multicar pileups thanks to widespread black ice across much of the Northeast, including our region. New Jersey State Police fielded reports of 428 collisions on Sunday related to the dangerous conditions, ABC News reported, and they referred to South Jersey roads as “a skating rink.” At least one death took place on one such road – Route 55 in Gloucester County, NBC reported. The New Jersey Turnpike was the site of yet another multivehicle collision, The Wall Street Journal reported. Farther north, another road fatality happened on Interstate 280 in Roseland, The New York Times reported.
Pennsylvania roads saw several major collisions and a few fatalities because of this storm. The Delaware River Port Authority closed the Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry, and Walt Whitman Bridges to treat them, USA Today reported. Still, ice remained on some of the biggest highways in Pennsylvania, with devastating results.
- In Montgomery County, the drivers of more than 60 vehicles found themselves in a giant pileup on I-76, Yahoo! News A 31-year-old Philadelphia man was killed and another 30 people suffered injuries in the collision, which left the road closed for hours.
- Delaware County was home to a 15+ car pileup on I-476 that began when a tractor trailer driver lost control of the truck, leaving it stopped blocking all lanes of travel. Two people were killed in this collision and five more were injured, one severely, Yahoo! News reported. Both of the deceased victims died when their cars become lodged beneath the tractor trailer and were pronounced dead at the scene, NBC.
- Another deadly crash occurred in Pike County, on an icy section of I-84. A car overturned, ejecting both a 34-year-old man who sadly did not survive and a 12-year-old boy whose injuries were described as critical, according to NBC.
- More multicar collisions left traffic backed up into the afternoon on multiple segments of I-95. Affected areas included northbound between exits 20 and 22, southbound between exit 46B and U.S. 1 South, and northbound from the exit for the Philadelphia International Airport and exit 17, Philly.com reported.
Today, our hearts go out to the people killed or injured in these accidents and to their families. This is surely a difficult time for everyone involved in the tragic accidents.
Staying Safe in Freezing Rain
The most surefire way to avoid a crash or a fall in freezing rain is by staying indoors – which is what authorities from Connecticut to Maryland urged citizens to do across the Northeast. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing or able to heed this advice. People have to go to work, to doctor’s appointments, and to other events that can’t be cancelled due to freezing rain.
If you must drive (or walk) in conditions like yesterday’s freezing rain, treat the roads, parking lots, and walkways with as much caution as you would treat a major snow storm – even if it seems you’re being overly careful. Just because you can’t see the ice doesn’t mean it’s not there, and once you slide on it, it could be too late to avoid a collision or an injury. Accelerate and brake slowly and gently, drive at a slower speed than you usually would, and leave plenty of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. If you can’t stay home, driving cautiously is the best way to protect yourself from a potentially deadly collision on icy roads.