NEW YORK — Rain “flash-freezing” on roads and sidewalks left an icy glaze under feet and tires across much of the northeast on Sunday, causing crashes that claimed at least five lives.
A crash involving 30 to 50 vehicles on Interstate 76 outside Philadelphia killed one person, and two others died in a crash involving multiple vehicles on nearby Interstate 476, police said. In northeastern Pennsylvania, a man was killed after his car overturned on an icy road and he was thrown from it and hit by a commercial vehicle. In Connecticut, police cited slippery conditions in a crash that killed an 88-year-old woman who struck a utility pole in New Haven.
“This is the worst type of winter precipitation to combat, because it can freeze instantly and it doesn’t need to be the whole pavement for vehicles crossing it to have problems,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Eugene Blaum said.
The National Weather Service warned Sunday night that temperatures were expected to drop below freezing in areas from northern Maryland into Philadelphia and up through northern New Jersey. Any remaining moisture on roadways and sidewalks could re-freeze, and drivers were urged to use caution until conditions improve. Temperatures were expected to hit the 40s by midday Monday in the area.
Kaitlyn Maier grew up in upstate New York but said that didn’t prepare her for the icy conditions she encountered trying to get from her home in Philadelphia to her niece’s baptism.
“I’ve driven through snow a lot, and this isn’t like anything I’ve ever driven in,” Maier told The Associated Press.
She came upon the I-76 wreck moments after it happened and saw a jumbled line of cars extending around the bend ahead of her. “We were stopped for a while on the side of the road. I was going less than 10 mph, but I had no control of my vehicle.”
Freezing rain and snow was expected in interior parts of New England, but the temperature was expected to rise into the 40s and 50s along the coast and change the precipitation to plain rain in time for the evening AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.
On the West Coast, high winds left tens of thousands of customers without power in the Seattle area, but power companies promised Seahawks fans they’d do their best to restore power before the NFC title game against the Green Bay Packers.
In eastern Oregon, highway officials partially reopened Interstate 84 Sunday after a massive crash blamed on black ice Saturday closed more than 160 miles of eastbound lanes. Rain was expected in western Oregon Sunday and Monday, but not as much as fell on Saturday, when 1.8 inches of rain in Portland sent some untreated sewage into the Willamette River.
Dozens of spinouts and accidents were reported from northern New Jersey to southern New Hampshire on Sunday and treacherous conditions forced the closure of the New York State Thruway from Newburgh to New York City during the morning. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority warned travelers on New York City’s Metro-North commuter railroad to beware of ice on staircases, platforms and parking lots.