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Multi-car pile-ups claim three lives on icy highways

Published:Monday | January 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

PHILADELPHIA (AP):A pair of multi-car pileups - including one involving dozens of vehicles - in icy conditions on interstates in the Philadelphia area claimed at least three lives yesterday, as hundreds of crashes were reported across eastern Pennsylvania, authorities said.

A crash involving an estimated 30 to 50 vehicles on Interstate 76 early in the morning killed one person, state police said. The crash, blamed on "flash-freezing", prompted closure of the highway in both directions, although one lane was reopened in the afternoon.

Two other people were killed in a crash involving multiple vehicles on Interstate 476, police said.

Both interstates are busy arteries serving communities west of the city. Officials said Interstate 95, a north-south highway through the area, was also closed early yesterday but had since reopened.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Eugene Blaum called travel conditions "very hazardous" due to light rain falling on to cold surfaces, creating a sheet of ice.

"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," Blaum said.

PennDOT had nearly 150 trucks out treating roadways before daybreak, when it became clear that conditions would be slippery, Blaum said.

Multiple calls

Emergency dispatchers reported more than 80 calls for ice-related crashes in Northampton County, 100 in Lehigh County, 100 in Bucks County - some involving emergency vehicles - and more than 75 in Montgomery County.

The Delaware River Port Authority closed bridges linking Philadelphia and New Jersey during the morning while workers put down salt, but began reopening lanes by midmorning.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike closed between Morgantown and the Delaware River Bridge but reopened at noon with speed limits reduced to 45 mph.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority canceled early bus service in Philadelphia but resumed service late in the morning.

Philadelphia International Airport reported some cancellations due to conditions.