By Briana Vannozzi
Freezing rain caused sheets of black ice leading to hundreds of accidents and road and bridge closures across New Jersey and the tri-state area.
“We were turned around by the New York state troopers and told to, go back home because the New York State Thruway was closed,” said Newburgh, N.Y. motorist John Mulligan.
New Jersey State Police reported 428 accidents by yesterday afternoon for areas they patrol, and nearly 200 calls for aide. The extent of the icing took both motorists and the emergency response crews by surprise.
“I’m surprised to hear the number of accidents. I thought there would be five or 10 or 20 along the highway but it’s an enormous number,” said New Jersey motorist David Mattson.
“Statewide, the New Jersey Department of Transportation had approximately 500 salt spreaders activated. They were activated early in the morning, and they were ready to go as soon as the precipitation began to fall,” said Steve Schapiro of the NJDOT.
Several serious injuries were reported, and one fatality. A spokesperson for the Turnpike Authority tells us they recorded 93 accidents between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m., but says that number is likely to change once all the information is tallied. Three hundred seventy-three vehicles on the corridor had to be towed or pulled out of the median.
“Yesterday’s weather is perhaps the most challenging conditions we can face in keeping the roads clear and safe for motorists. We can’t pre-treat roads when the forecast is for rain because it washes the brine or the salt off the road,” said Schapiro.
In Teaneck, more than 30 cars were involved in a crash. And along the Schuylkill in Pennsylvania, a deadly pile up killed three. It took state police more than seven hours to clear.
“I probably would have been out all day but because the roads were so bad, I tried to stay off the highways and stay home,” said South Jersey motorist Raquel Washington.
As prepared as they were, NJDOT’s spokesman says, “It was a situation yesterday where sometimes Mother Nature has the upper hand for a little while and that was the case while we were out there getting those roads treated.”
Forecasters say another winter storm system is moving our way later this week, and urge motorists to take Sunday as a warning to monitor the weather and use caution on the roads.