East expecting warmer temps in aftermath of snow storm

Friday, February 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Highway crews worked late into the night to clear roads that were blanketed with snow during an eastern storm that paralyzed the region and left at least 11 people dead.

The blinding weather conditions caused a 116-vehicle pileup in northern Virginia that killed one and resulted in more than 115 injuries. The snow turned to slush by mid-afternoon, but police warned that road conditions were turning dangerous again by late night.

``All that snow and slush that melted over is now refreezing,'' Virginia state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

The storm raced from North Carolina into New York by the evening rush hour on Thursday, dumping 10 inches in parts of southeastern Pennsylvania. Accumulations were limited to about 6 inches in most areas.

The weather closed dozens of schools and highways and caused traffic accidents that killed 11 people in Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Forecasters predicted a break from the blustery weather on Friday, with temperatures climbing into the 40s and 50s.

``The snow has stopped. The temperatures are supposed to be in their 50s,'' said Lynda South, a Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman. ``That should tell you everything.''

In North Carolina, two people, including a teen-ager on her way to school, were killed after the storm coated roads with freezing rain, snow and sleet, authorities said.

The weather forced hundreds of Pennsylvania schools to be closed and caused two deaths in the western part of the state.

In West Virginia, two people died after weather-related collisions, police said.

New Jersey State Police reported at least four multiple-vehicle crashes on major highways, resulting in three deaths.

``The traffic was throwing snow up like dust,'' said Dennis Eddy, who totaled his Ford pickup in a 20-vehicle pileup in New Jersey. ``People just kept piling up. By the time you saw people, it was too late.''

New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman John Dourgarian said the state had 1,200 plows cleaning roads and spreading salt.

The Virginia pileup, near the nation's capital, started about 10:30 a.m. after a car collided into a tractor-trailer and caught fire on Interstate 95 near Garrisonville.

``The scope of this is so large, we only know what's going on the back end via radio on the front end,'' said Charlie Robertson, a spokesman for the Stafford fire department.

State police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said the pileup extended for three miles.

In all, 14 people were taken to the hospital, and more than 100 had minor injuries, Caldwell said. Rescue crews transported drivers to a shelter at a nearby elementary school.

``You see it coming, and there's nothing you can do,'' said driver Reshea Pierce. ``You just brace yourself for a head-on collision. There were cars knocking other cars off the road.''

North of Baltimore, a five-mile stretch of southbound I-95 _ one of the nation's busiest highways _ was closed for more than two hours following a series of crashes.

``I've seen a lot of bad weather, a lot of wrecks, a lot of killing. On a scale of one to 10, this is a 10,'' said Jim Roberts, 61, a trucker who got stuck behind a crash on Interstate 64 east of Charlottesville.

Elsewhere on I-64, a tractor-trailer carrying tires, another carrying frozen food and two other trucks collided, dumping their cargos on the road. The tires caught fire and burned for several hours, sending out thick plumes of black smoke. Eight people were injured.

By noon, the interstate was littered with abandoned vehicles as people hitched rides with police to get out of the storm.

Virginia had several other multiple-vehicle pileups that caused dozens of injuries. One person was killed in a multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 64 west of Richmond.

``Even 45 mph, while it may sound slow on the interstate, is too fast for these conditions,'' Caldwell said.