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Storm creates havoc on roadways

March 05, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A late winter "white-out" sent cars, pickups and tractor-trailers skidding into each other across the region Thursday morning, particularly in Franklin County, Pa., where two pileups involving a total of 19 vehicles were reported in Guilford Township.

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Only two minor injuries were reported from a 12-vehicle accident at 8 a.m. on the 4800 block of Molly Pitcher Highway north of Marion, according to Pennsylvania State Police.

Police had not filed a complete report on the accident Thursday night, but Marion Volunteer Fire Co. Deputy Chief Paul Shannon said, "There was still a backlog at 11 a.m."

The police report said it was caused by "white-out, blizzard conditions." Shannon said it appeared to be a chain-reaction accident, with drivers and passengers getting out of their vehicles and seeking shelter at Blair's Service Garage.

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Shannon said ambulances from Marion and Chambersburg were called to take two people to Chambersburg Hospital. Fire police from Marion, Chambersburg and New Franklin were called in to sort out the mess.

At 11:15 a.m. there was a seven-vehicle pile-up on Molly Pitcher Highway in Guilford Township. Again, police said it was high winds blowing snow across the roadway that reduced visibility to almost zero.

Three pickups, two cars, a van and a truck were involved in the accident. Police said it began when Harold J. Brechbill, 50, of Chambersburg, slowed to avoid an unidentified vehicle and the other six southbound vehicles collided into and behind him.

It was only three inches of snow in the Chambersburg area, but local weather watcher Jerry Ashway said there were many gusts over 40 mph. At 11:50 a.m., winds topped out with a gust of 54 mph.

A 9 a.m. accident involving two tractor-trailers shut down southbound Interstate 81 in Guilford Township for about 90 minutes, according to state police.

Again, white-out conditions were blamed as a rig driven by Brenda Aleman, 46, of Woodsfield, Ohio, fishtailed as she slowed down in poor visibility. Another rig driven by Rodney Prejean, 35, of Sulphur, La., hit the rear of Aleman's truck and jackknifed, blocking both southbound lanes.

Southbound I-81 became a two-lane parking lot until the tractor-trailers were cleared.

At 9:41 a.m. the New Franklin Volunteer Fire Co. was called out on a hazardous materials incident on Guilford Springs Road. Fire Chief Colin Snyder said an Agway truck carrying 2,500 pounds of liquid propane skidded off the road and was leaning at a 30-degree angle.

Two heavy-duty tow trucks stabilized the truck while its load was transferred, Snyder said. About 15 firefighters from New Franklin, Marion and the Franklin Fire Company were on the scene for about 2 1/2 hours.

"There were times we couldn't see what were doing" because of the blowing snow, Snyder said.

In other parts of Franklin County there were less serious accidents without injuries, according to state police. Troopers in Fulton County responded to nine accidents, only one of which involved a minor injury.

That occurred at 2:45 p.m. on Pa. 655 a mile north of Hustontown when Jeffrey W. Scott, 28, of Broad Top, Pa., hit a patch of snow and rolled his car into a ditch.

In Maryland, Thursday night's snowstorm dumped three to six inches on Washington County and contributed to several accidents.

One tractor-trailer slid on ice and overturned on the median on Interstate 70 near the State Police barracks.

Two others traveled into the median on Interstate 81 near the Maugansville exit in separate accidents.

Police said all three tractor-trailers will be removed Friday.

In Frederick County, two people were injured in a multi-auto accident on ice-covered Route 15 near North Franklinville Road Thursday at 8:34 a.m.

Laura Smith of Bealton, Va., was traveling north on Route 15 when she spun out of control and stopped just north of Franklinville Road. Another car, driven by Thomas Weaver of Thurmont, Md. also spun out of control stopping nearby

Eugene Troxell, of Emmitsburg, Md. got out of his car to assist Smith.

A tractor-trailer driven by John Pittinger, of Emmitsburg, Md., was unable to avoid the stopped cars and struck Weaver's vehicle, which in turn hit Troxell.

Weaver and Troxell received minor injuries and were treated and released from the Frederick Memorial Hospital.

In West Virginia, Jefferson County officials reported scattered problems from the weather. Several cars slipped off roads and into fences, according to state police.

The worst road conditions were in the Shannondale area and on Kabletown Road, emergency officials said.

Some power lines and utility poles were downed during the weather, and a chimney at a house on South Childs Road was blown over by high winds, officials said.

West Virginia State Police with the Martinsburg detachment responded to a few minor weather-related fender benders but did not report any serious accidents, according to a state police dispatcher.

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